The Mysterious Seal-Eel Connection
Photo credit: Brittany Dolan/NOAA Fisheries
There’s a new fad out there which has baffled scientists and poses a serious health risk: sticking eels up your nose. There’s just one catch, though. It’s not teenagers who are doing it but rather juvenile Hawaiian monk seals.
The story got picked up after the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) posted a picture of a seal with a dead spotted eel stuck up its nose on its Facebook page. The image puzzled animal experts, who’d never seen the bizarre phenomenon before. According to NOAA, the organization has been monitoring the endangered species for almost 40 years and had only noticed the odd incident on a few occasions, and they all happened in the last three years.
Charles Littnan, head of NOAA’s Hawaiian monk seal research program, said the first instance occurred in 2016. He received an e-mail from a field researcher which, basically, said, “Found seal with eel stuck in nose. What do we do?” There was no protocol set in place back then, but now, standard procedure is to capture the animal and pull the eel through the nostril. So far, all the eels have died, but none of the Hawaiian monk seals seemed affected by the incident.
There’s still the question of why is this happening, and so far, there is no satisfying answer. NOAA has ruled out the work of a deranged person with a vendetta against seals. Littnan said it could be that the seal is regurgitating the eel, or the fish purposely swam inside the nose while the seal was hunting it, but doesn’t consider either hypothesis plausible.
I seem to remember that when we were kids, one of my sisters (I don't remember which one) got something stuck up her nose and had to go to the doctor's office to have it removed. If memory serves, it was a bean, and had started to sprout!
Coffee in the kitchen again this morning.