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07 December 2018, 09:53 | Dale Webster
Why have seals been getting eels stuck up their noses?
EndangeredHawaiian monk seals are facing a unusual new threat, on top of the usual challenges from disease and becoming caught in fishing nets.
One theory is that, because seals forage for food by shoving their noses into rock pools and coral reefs, eels they encounter could try and defend themselves by plunging into the seals' noses. "It might not have been a good one for you but it had to have been better than an eel in your nose".
While the poor animal didn't appear too bothered by the nosey intruder, field researchers rushed to the scene to help dislodged the eel.
"We don't know if this is just some odd statistical anomaly or something we will see more of in the future", the NOAA wrote.
"We've been intensively monitoring monk seals for four decades and in all of that time nothing like this has happened", said Charles Littnan, lead scientist at Noaa'sHawaiian Monk Seal Research Program.
The program answered the question: "We don't know". "We might never know". Since this phenomenon has been observed only in juvenile seals, Littnan said it could also just be that the seals are inexperienced at hunting.
According to the NOAA Fisheries, researchers recorded a record number of pups born to the endangered Hawaiian monk seals on the main Hawaiian islands in 2018.
In an elaborated post on the NOAA Fisheries website, the experts say seals with an eel jammed up their nose have been seen three of four times over the last 40 years.
Or, just like in the YouTube videos where people sneeze and spit up long strands of pasta through their noses, the seal could have regurgitated an eel that it ate, with the eel coming out the wrong pipe, Littnan said.
The team has so far successfully extracted the eels from all the seals found in this predicament, with the seals being released back into the wild.
'If you come across a Hawaiian monk seal mom and pup, please stay quiet and enjoy them from a distance, remaining behind any signs or barriers that might be present'.
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