As strange and amusing as it sounds, scientists are at a loss as to why they’ve been finding endangered Hawaiian monk seals with eels stuck up their noses.
In the waters of Hawaii, it seems the teenaged monk seals are the most likely to somehow end up with the black-and-white eels dangling from their noses.
“It’s just so shocking,” veterinarian and monk seal expert Claire Simeon told The Washington Post. “It’s an animal that has another animal stuck up its nose.”
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Since the seals are already endangered, scientists are less than thrilled that the creatures have managed to add another risk to their existence.
Charles Littnan, lead scientist of the monk seal program, said that if he could, he’d tell the teenaged seals to “make better choices.”
“We have no idea why this is suddenly happening,” Littnan said.
“You see some very strange things if you watch nature long enough, and this could end up being one of these little oddities and mysteries of our careers that 40 years from now, we’ll be retired and still questioning quite how this happened.”
Scientists do have a few theories as to why it’s happening, but Littnan isn’t really sold on any of them.
For example, one theory is that since seals use their mouths for hunting in coral reefs, they may inadvertently snuff out the eels hiding in the same places as their food.
The eels frantically try and escape, only to wind up swimming into a “cave” they don’t want to be inside.
But if this were the case, research teams would likely have been documenting the incidents for years. Since this is a new phenomenon, scientists are still mystified as to what these adolescents are up to.
Maybe these millennial seals want to do things their own way.
“It almost does feel like one of those teenage trends that happen,” Littnan said. “One juvenile seal did this very stupid thing and now the others are trying to mimic it.”
Like any good parent, Littnan has some wisdom to offer the teenage Hawaiian monk seal population: “I would gently plead for them to stop.”
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