A GRAPEFRUIT-SIZED EYEBALL has been found on the Florida coast line at Pompano Beach near Fort Lauderdale. A local beachcomber who had stumbled upon the mysterious organ alerted Florida state officials, who are now labouring under its singularly pitiless gaze in attempts to identify the bright blue orb in their custody. The eye may have been dislodged at sea from a creature’s socket in some titanic struggle beneath the waves, or excised by a fisherman for a souvenir or trophy.
As scientific tests are performed on the glaring gelatinous mass, some initially proposed theories —those that entertain rational assumptions regarding an Earthly origin of the great gouged thing, that is— encompass possibilities of its belonging to –
a giant squid
a Big-Eyed Thresher Shark (Alopias superciliosus)
a Leviathan as yet unknown
George Burgess, a shark expert at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, Florida, told The Guardian newspaper he concurred with State scientists who thought the eye likely belonged to a swordfish :
“I’d say the fish was a pretty decent size, probably more than 10 feet in length. There was a bit of bone left on the other side of the eye from where it was taken from the animal. That would eliminate a shark because they have cartilage, and on that basis it was likely one of the billfish.”
Billfish are in a taxonomical grouping that includes the Swordfish (sole extant species of the Family Xiphiidæ) as well various marlins, spearfish and sailfish (Family Istiophoridæ). Burgess said such discoveries are not unknown along the beaches of southeastern Florida, where a strong Gulf Stream will often bear ashore the larger creatures of the deep – although he said the fish were usually intact.
“An eyeball like that is very impressive. I can see how it would freak people out. We keep the eyeball of a Bigeye Thresher in a jar in the laboratory here and people walking by it get spooked by this large, dead blue eye staring at them. Over the years we have had a number of interesting marine life specimens washing up or caught in Florida.”
Click twice on these official government photos for an extreme close-up view of Florida’s prized mystery eyeball –
[Photos Carli Segelson, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission]
Story in The National Geographic Magazine –
In The Guardian –
NEW : Press statement, for immediate release, from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ~
After examining an eye found on a south Florida beach this week, researchers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission believe the specimen came from a swordfish. Genetic testing will be done to confirm the identification.
“Experts on site and remotely have viewed and analyzed the eye, and based on its color, size and structure, along with the presence of bone around it, we believe the eye came from a swordfish,” said Joan Herrera, curator of collections at the FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg [Florida]. “Based on straight-line cuts visible around the eye, we believe it was removed by a fisherman and discarded.”
The approximately softball-size eye was recovered by a citizen in Pompano Beach on Wednesday. FWC staff received the eye later that day. Swordfish are commonly fished in the Florida Straits offshore of south Florida at this time of year.
A highly migratory fish, swordfish can be found from the surface to as deep as 2,000 feet. Swordfish in the Atlantic can reach a maximum size of over 1,100 pounds, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Swordfish feed on a wide variety of fish and invertebrates.