Jeffrey Walthall |

Hawaiian Monk Seals Keep Getting Eels Caught In Their Nose, And Researchers Are Baffled

This Phenomenon Was First Seen Back In 2016

December 8, 2018

The Hawaiian Monk Seal is an endangered species that has been closely studied for years. Yet, recently the endangered species has been performing an act that is baffling conservationist. According to a recent Facebook post by the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program, the Hawaiian Monk Seal’s in Honolulu keep getting eels caught up their nose.

This is a relatively new phenomenon as researchers first started noticing this trend back in 2016. In their Facebook post, the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program jokes, “ might not have been a good one for you but it had to have been better than an eel in your nose.” Though this has been reported on before, the HMSRP says, “We have now found juvenile seals with eels stuck in their noses on multiple occasions. In all cases the eel was successfully removed and the seals were fine.”

While researchers have been able to remove the eels, without harm to the seals, the same cannot be said for the eels. While it is still a mystery as to why this keep happening to the Hawaiian Monk Seal, there are two theories currently as to why this has been frequently happening. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, one theory is that, the eels are charging the seals defensively, while the seals are foraging for food.

The other theory presented by the NOAA is that the seals are eating the eel’s whole, and then regurgitating the eel through their nose. While both theories seem logical, it is still unknown how this continues to happen, and with the frequency that is happening. In many cases, the eels are lodged in the nostril of the monk seal that it becomes very difficult to remove.

The Hawaiian Monk Seal is one of the rarest seal species as it is mostly only found in eight remote islands of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. It is an endangered species with an estimated 1,427 remaining, according to a study done in 2016. While this act of getting an eel stuck in the nose isn’t harming the monk seals in a large manor, it is a phenomenon that is confusing researchers. While they continue to study the animal, maybe researchers should take this into account; it could be that the eels just smell good.