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Seal with eel stuck up its snout gets help from nosy scientists

Children aren’t the only creatures capable of getting bizarre things stuck in their nostrils. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program reported on a squicky find this week when it shared a Facebook photo of a seal with a spotted eel dangling from its nose. 

Yes, that’s an eel in a seal.


NOAA Fisheries/Brittany Dolan

The seal looks surprisingly chill considering its predicament. 

What’s even stranger is that the seal program has seen this happen before, first noting the phenomenon a few years ago and citing multiple cases of juvenile seals with nostril eels since then. Scientists are unsure if this indicates a teen-seal fad that will continue into the future.

“In all cases the eel was successfully removed and the seals were fine. The eels, however, did not make it,” writes marine biologist Brittany Dolan in the Facebook post.

NOAA scientists have a couple ideas about how the eel might have gotten into the seal schnoz. Monk seals search for food by sticking their faces into tight places. “This may be a case of an eel that was cornered trying to defend itself or escape,” says NOAA.  

Another possibility is that the seal downed the eel and then regurgitated it up the wrong way, much like that time you snorted out milk when your friend told you an unexpected joke. 

NOAA reports all of the eel-huffing seals have shown no ill effects from their fish-sniffing experiments.


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