Nature & Environment
Monk seals are getting eels stuck up their noses
By T.K. Randall
December 7, 2018 · 8 comments
How did this happen ? Image Credit: NOAA Fisheries / Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program
Wildlife authorities are trying to explain how monk seals are managing to get eels jammed up inside their nostrils.
With a mere 1,400 individuals remaining, this endangered Hawaiian species has been a major concern for conservationists in recent years.
Previously hunted for their skins, the seals are still under threat today thanks to disease, stray fishing nets, plastic debris, human encroachment and a lack of general genetic diversity.
The most surprising issue of all however has only emerged in the last few years - the seals have, for some unknown reason, started to get eels stuck up their noses.
"We've been intensively monitoring monk seals for four decades and in all of that time nothing like this has happened," said Charles Littnan of the NOAA's Hawaiian monk seal research program.
"Now it's happened three or four times and we have no idea why."
For a seal, having an eel stuck up your nose is a major problem, especially given the potential for infection and the animals' reliance on shutting off their nostrils when diving underwater.
Fortunately the eels can be successfully removed, however the issue shouldn't be happening at all.
"Hawaiian monk seals forage by shoving their mouth and nose into the crevasses of coral reefs, under rocks, or into the sand," the NOAA wrote. "They are looking for prey that likes to hide, like eels."
"This may be a case of an eel that was cornered trying to defend itself or escape. Alternatively, the seal could have swallowed the eel and regurgitated it so that the eel came out the wrong way."
"We might not ever know."
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