A Humongous Disembodied Eyeball Has Washed Up On a Florida Beach

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Oct. 12 2012 11:01 AM

Humongous Disembodied Eyeball Washes Up On Florida Beach

giant mystery eyeball
The mystery eye.

Image courtesy of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Update, Oct. 12, 6:44 p.m.: A consensus seems to be emerging among scientists that the mysterious eye belonged, not to Cthulhu or a kraken, as some readers suggested, but to a big old swordfish. A Duke marine biologist who specializes in vision told Deep Sea News he was "fairly sure" from the pictures that it was a swordfish eye. After consulting with colleagues, he went further: "definitely a swordfish eye." And The Guardian cites (secondhand) a Florida FWC scientist saying that he had examined the eye in person and reached the same conclusion.

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

Assuming they're right, congratulations are due to Slate reader eustace 1, who appears to have called it in the comments section of our post. Her (or his) diagnosis, posted earlier this afternoon:

It is the eye of a rather largish female swordfish (X. gladius). Right size, right colour, right location, right anatomy. They pop right out and float away in the early stages of decomposition. There.. how's that for a Hallowe'en image? (Yes, Virginia.. all one need do is eyeball it.)
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Shark expert George Burgess told the Guardian that the eye was most likely severed from a dead swordfish by fishermen who intended to keep it as a souvenir. Next crowdsourcing task for the Internet: Find the fisherman who fumbled the thing and get the full story.

Original post: A Florida man was taking a stroll on a beach when he stumbled across something out of the ordinary: a giant blue eyeball, just sitting there in the sand.

Did it belong to a squid or a whale? Tuna or swordfish? Some mystery creature from the depths, as yet unknown to science?

giant eyeball - side view

Image courtesy of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Probably not the last. But you never know. The man turned his discovery over to officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Wednesday, and they're now working to get the slimy specimen into the hands of marine biologists at their research center in St. Petersburg, spokeswoman Carli Segelson told me this morning. But in the meantime, they're kind of enjoying the waves of wild speculation that have been washing up on their Facebook page and elsewhere. A Facebook post billing the find as "THE MYSTERY EYEBALL" and noting the "perfect timing for Halloween" has been "liked" and shared more than 1,000 times in less than 24 hours.

Segelson acknowledged that the results could be anticlimactic once researchers get an up-close look at the thing. "They may even be able to just, well, eyeball it," she said. But even that could still leave the mystery of how the eye became dislodged from its owner. It's not every day that someone happens upon a lone eyeball on the beach, she noted.

The leading hypothesis for now is that it's from "some type of large fish," Segelson added. The specimen is "about the size of a softball—definitely bigger than a baseball."

Feel free to hazard a guess as to the eye's provenance in the comments below, and be sure to include your baseless yet entertaining hypothesis as to what calamity befell its original owner.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

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