Researchers have been left scratching their heads after finding a seal with an eel stuck in the nose of the northwestern Hawaiian islands.
A picture taken this year of the seal was shared earlier this week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who said it had seen the phenomenon three or four times.
"For the nearly 40 years we have been working to monitor and protect endangered Hawaiian monk seals, we have only started to see" eel in noses "in the last few years.
"We do not know if it's only a strange statistical anomaly, or if we want to see more eels in seals in the future."
The researchers said that the eel might have got stuck, trying to escape – Hawaiian monk seals feed by pushing their mouth and nose into coral reefs, under rock or sand, looking for swapping that likes to hide.
Another option was the seal – which often throws food – swallowed and then regurgitated the eel, so it turned out the wrong way.
NOAA has since developed guidelines for how to remove the eels after researchers first saw a fix in 2016.
"They are stuck in there really close so you have to keep the seal back and give the eel a solid tooth to get it out," The Guardian reported NOAA's leading researcher Charles Littnan as saying.
"One of them was really far in, so it was like a magician's handkerchief trick – we had to keep pulling and pulling."
NOAA said all seals since caught in the "slippery situation" had been caught and the eels removed. None of the eels have survived.