Teen seals continue to confuse and alarm scientists with a hot new trend: Eel snorting. According to the Washington Post, numerous (endangered) Hawaiian monk seals have been spotted with eels dangling from their nostrils; now, concerned seal dad and lead scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program, Charles Littnan would like to “gently plead” with the seals to “make better choices.”
Over the past two years, Littnan’s team has dislodged three to four eels from smirking adolescent seal snoots, in a manner “very much akin to the magician’s trick when they’re pulling out the handkerchiefs and they keep coming and coming and coming,” he told the Post. While obviously amusing, the phenomenon has reportedly caused quite a bit of hand-wringing among seal-loving scientists, because swimming around with two-plus feet of dead fish up the nose could potentially translate to infection, even water in the lungs.
To judge by this viral pic, the seals themselves seem largely unbothered by the risk, even pleased with themselves:
The researchers have eliminated human douchebaggery as a potential culprit, and have toyed with the idea that the eels are doing this to themselves. The eels are almost exactly the same diameter as your average monk seal’s nostril, and seals hunt with their whole faces, rather than their slippery mitts. Suddenly confronted with a predatory maw, might an eel just jet up the nose for safety? Perhaps, but Littnan has a better theory.
“It almost does feel like one of those teenage trends that happen,” he told the Post. “One juvenile seal did this very stupid thing and now the others are trying to mimic it.”
Like youths eating heaping spoonfuls of cinnamon, or hoovering condoms up their noses, these young sea dogs are most likely horking eels out their snouts to secure their peers’ approval and a shining moment of internet fame. (W/r/t the latter, mission accomplished.) In other words, the Eel Challenge is just the Tide Pod challenge for the teen seal set, and I won’t be requiring anything else from 2018, thanks.