Mysterious Giant Eyeball Found on Florida Beach

Scientists originally suspected the eye was from a large fish.

Update 10/15/12 2:19PM: The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has reported that the ‘mystery eyeball’ appears to be from swordfish. Learn More.

Perhaps reminiscent of the infamous Montauk monster, a giant eyeball has washed up on a Florida beach (as if Florida needed anything else weird). The Internets are buzzing with questions: whose eye is it? What is it?

To us, it looks an awful lot like the giant squid eyeball we recently saw on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Smithsonian. To find out, we inquired with some of our intrepid National Geographic grantees.

But first, where did the eye come from? According to news reports, the mysterious eye washed up on Florida’s Pompano Beach, where it was found by a beachcomber. Instead of whisking it away, as was the case in Montauk, the fine citizen handed it over to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Wednesday.

Those scientists put the softball-size eye on ice and sent it to the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. A spokesperson for the commission, Carli Segelson, told NBCNews that scientists will use genetic testing to try to figure out who the eye belonged to.

“The primary suspect right now is that it would be a large fish,” Segelson told NBC, such as a swordfish, tuna, or deep-water fish.

We asked Robert L. Pitman, a marine biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service in La Jolla, California, to weigh in. Pitman has received funding from National Geographic to study killer whales.

“It probably is a squid eye–other things with eyes that big (fish, cetaceans) have them imbedded in hard tissue. Squid eyes are in relatively soft tissue and more likely to dislodge as in the photo you sent. A quick DNA analysis could easily sort it out for you,” Pitman explained via email.

Eastern Screech Owl. Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia
Eastern Screech Owl. Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia
Photograph by Graham McGeorge, National Geographic Your Shot

However, Segelson told us via phone, “From what I understand there appears to be bones around the eye, so that would rule out a squid.” Segelson added that the commission hopes to have preliminary test results by the end of today.

We also reached out to two squid experts to get their perspective. One declined to comment and we haven’t heard back from the other yet. We’ll keep you posted.

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