Monk seals are kind of adorable, but they're also pretty fearless and ferocious predators. They're agile, they're quick, they've got incredibly sharp teeth — and the brains to know just how to use them. As a species, seals are some of the most skilled hunters the sea has to offer. People who live near them often revere their hunting prowess and understand that they're really not to be trifled with.
That can be really hard to remember when a picture like this comes along and ruins the whole bad-ass seal hunter image.
Yeah, that's a monk seal with an eel stuck up its nose. We don't know how the eel got there but, according to Hawaiian monk seal researchers, this is a thing that just happens sometimes. There are two basic theories. Theory one focuses on how the seals hunt. They shove their heads into holes and crevices looking for food. This might cause an eel to panic and try to make a swim for it, ending up inside the seal's nostrils. The second theory is that the seals try to regurgitate the eels for whatever reason and instead of coming back up and out through their mouths, the eels rocket out of their noses. We've seen little kids sneeze spaghetti noodles out of their noses so we guess it's plausible.
However the eels get there, it's obviously not the most comfortable situation for the seals involved. When they can, researchers remove the eels. The seals come through the ordeal just fine (maybe a little embarrassed that a picture of them with an eel booger dangling from their face went viral) but the eels aren't so lucky. None have lived to tell the other eels not to try it.
What has survived is that picture. It started making the rounds on the internet and people can't get enough.
Researchers have been tracking the seals for about four decades now, but the eel-in-your-nose phenomenon has been happening only recently and just to juvenile seals. We guess eel is just what the kids are doing these days.