Giant eyeball mystery solved: Experts say it belonged to swordfish

Though some had also suggested it came from a deep-sea squid, experts contacted by LiveScience lean toward a swordfish as the likely eyeball owner.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
The eye that washed ashore on Pompano Beach, Fla.

Wildlife officials in Florida are examining a lone blue eye the size of a softball that washed ashore on Pompano Beach this week. While test results are pending, some researchers have speculated that the mysterious eye belonged to a large swordfish.

Though some had also suggested it came from a deep-sea squid, experts contacted by LiveScience lean toward a swordfish as the likely eyeball owner.

Marine scientist Heather Bracken-Grissom, of Florida International University in Miami, told LiveScience that the shape of the eyeball's lens and pupil is similar to that of a giant squid.

"The eyes of squids do dislodge quite easily during dissection," Bracken-Grissom said in an email, though she added that "it would be very rare for a fresh squid eyeball to wash ashore a Florida beach."

Other experts saw a "fishier" explanation for the eyeball. 

"I have not seen a squid with blue eyes, but I am not an expert," said Trevor Wardill, a research associate at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) at Woods Hole, Mass. "My guess is that it is from a vertebrate, as the iris is not fully open, but still very round."

Squid have w-shaped irises when they aren't fully open, Wardill told LiveScience.

Eric Warrant, a vision scientist at the University of Lund in Sweden who has worked extensively with swordfish eyes, said if the eye is not fake, it is almost certainly a swordfish. But that still wouldn't answer a key question: How would a single swordfish eye wash up on a Florida beach?

"You usually don't find random floating eyes of any animal," said biologist Sönke Johnsen of Duke University. Johnsen was cautious about making a judgment based on the photos but said, "I'm fairly sure it's just the eye of a large xiphid, likely a swordfish or marlin."

"They get seriously big, but people don't realize it because most of the eye is inside the head," he wrote in an email to LiveScience. (Squid eyes can also get seriously big, with scientits finding the giant squid can have basketball-size peepers, likely as a way to spot predators like sperm whales in their dim undersea homes.)

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) posted pictures of the big eye Thursday (Oct. 11) after it was found by a man on Pompano Beach.

"Our staff in South Florida picked it up and placed it on ice. It will be sent for possible identification," the FWC said in a Facebook post.

As of Friday morning, a spokesperson for the agency, Carli Segelson, told LiveScience there was no new information about the eye.

Editor's Note: This article was updated at 11:45 a.m. ET Sunday, Oct. 14 to correct the classification of swordfish to xiphid, not scombrid.

Follow LiveScience on Twitter @livescience. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Giant eyeball mystery solved: Experts say it belonged to swordfish
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today