Don’t you hate that feeling when your nose is stuffed up and you just… can’t… breathe? Well, whatever boogers have plagued you in the past, count yourself lucky that you didn’t have an EEL IN YOUR NOSTRIL:
That photo of a super-chill young seal with an eel dangling from its nose has been making the rounds since it was shared by the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program earlier this week, but this is hardly a new phenomenon. According to The Washington Post:
It all began about two years ago when [Charles] Littnan, the lead scientist of the monk seal program, woke up to a strange email from researchers in the field. The subject line was short: “Eel in nose.”
“It was just like, ‘We found a seal with an eel stuck in its nose. Do we have a protocol?’” Littnan told The Post in a phone interview.
There was none, Littnan said, and it took several emails and phone calls before the decision was made to grab the eel and try pulling it out.
“There was only maybe two inches of the eel actually still sticking out of the nose, so it was very much akin to the magician’s trick when they’re pulling out the handkerchiefs and they keep coming and coming and coming,” he said.
After less than a minute of tugging, a two-and-a-half-foot dead eel emerged from the seal’s nostril.
Since that first incident, there have been three or four more reported cases of Hawaiian monk seals with eels in their noses. The good news is that so far no harm has come to the seals, which are an endangered species — but there is concern that this eel-nose issue could lead to infection or water in the lungs (since having an eel in their nose makes it hard for the seal’s nostril to shut when they dive, obviously). Unfortunately, the eels haven’t been quite so lucky, as none of the ones that have been extracted so far have survived.
But the big question is WHY this keeps happening, and that’s what has the scientists stumped. Seals tend to eat things that like to hide in coral reefs — things like these eels, in fact — and the way they get their prey is to… well, basically jam their faces all up in there. So the current theories as to wtf is going on includes:
— Cornered eels try to escape by… swimming up their attacker’s nose. Which is a helluva strategy.
— These eels were ALREADY dead, and had been eaten by the seals… and then the seals regurgitated them. And before you say, “but why would the eels come out of their noses?” just think about any time you’ve gotten too drunk and gone to vom, only to find those bar nachos coming out your nose holes. Or is that just me? Whatever, moving on…
— This is all just a silly, juvenile seal prank — the “Tide Pod Challenge” of the seal world (Seals: They’re just like us!)
Whatever is going on, Littnan would really like the monk seals to “make better choices” — a sentiment most people share when it comes to teenagers snorting things. But at least the seals don’t seem particularly put-out by their own dilemma. In fact, as you can tell from the picture, they barely seem to notice when they have two feet of eel dangling from their noses. And that, friends, is the level of zen-like don’t-give-a-fuckery to which I aspire.