Solved! Where did the Big Eye In The Sea come from?

No doubt you have seen the lonely big eye in the sea story by now.  A giant eyeball washed ashore on a Florida beach and then the internet went crazy.  So what is it? I emailed Sönke Johnsen a Professor of Biology and colleague of mine at Duke University.  Sönke is an expert on everything visual in marine organisms including transparency, cryptic coloration, bioluminescence, ultraviolet protection, and of course vision.  He responded

I’m fairly sure it’s just the eye of a large [Xiphiidae or Istiophoridae], 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 then went a step further and then emailed a few of his colleagues

talked with some colleagues — definitely a swordfish eye

There you have it.  New reports on the eye also mention the presence of bones which obviously rules out the giant squid!

So does this mean I win the internet?

88 Replies to “Solved! Where did the Big Eye In The Sea come from?”

  1. I don’t know about the internet, but you made that I can go to sleep now, assured that my deep sea heroes know their world!

  2. Since I used to live in the area and walk along that beach a lot, it blows me away that something like that would be found. What in the world inflicted that swordfish/marlin with that kind of injury, I wonder. And what happened to the rest of it?

  3. You don’t win the Internet because swordfish aren’t scombrids. The family Scombridae contains tunas and mackerels. Swordfish are Xiphiidae. Marlins are Istiophoridae.

  4. and then the internet went crazy.

    Heh. You were expecting something else? :D

    I’m not sure I want to know what people thought it was, but I’m going to look anyway. (Don’t you know you shouldn’t bring these things to my attention? :) )

  5. I noted your call SFS! From looking at the eye I knew it ain’t a giant squid cause of the bony cartilage and comparison with predatory fish like marlin and swordfish I concluded it was most likely one of them 2.

  6. You know, some of us were preparing for the awakening of Cthulhu. I guess it’s good news that the eye came from some big fish rather than *gulp* the tentacled one.

  7. I wouldn’t be too sure just yet, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet. Sounds like a cover up.

  8. I think that nature can give us to many things that we cant understand or let’s say miracles. A very impressive found, that give us the opportunity to think at some of the most interesting things, that nature can reveal or preserve.

  9. Scombroidei does include all the fish mentioned. Whether he misspoke or it was misspelled, I do not know.

  10. Obviously the fish was running with scissors. He tripped and put his eye out just like mama warned you about.

  11. I am surprised why no one consulted Professor Ivan Swab at UC Davis. He is not only an expert in comparative ocular anatomy but have recently published a book comprised of figures of many many organisms. Comparative ocular anatomy is my interest too but Prof. Ivan Swab is best and an expert in this area.

  12. I agree with this comment, I know those fish are big but for their head to host not one but two eyes of this size? Highly unlikely. I’m assuming this is some sort of ancient fish maybe or something the likes of the world has yet to see before or hasn’t seen since the very distant past.

  13. I think it could be proof that the megaladon is again roaming the oceans unchecked. I could be wrong, but I know I’m not checking!

  14. It really looks like an eye of a giant squid even they found bone on it(may be carthridge like soft bone which you will find in squid). An eye is very hard to digest. Most likely, a blue whole spit it out and it lands in Florida.

  15. You have to provide us with more evidence first, just because the guy is from Duke University doesn’t mean I will just take his word for it.

  16. dah!!! it’s a sordfish eye, simple as that , i have the other eye in my freezer
    from a sordfish i caught, big as a softball, sordfish have bigger eyes than sailfish
    or marlin so they can see in deep dark water.

  17. Nicely said, Doctor M. Twitter is an obsolete form of internet-based communication that ended when Facebook came to steal the spotlight. Now we are seeing that Facebook only stole the show, and not all of the audience.

  18. I was not wprried about the eye because I was sure belong to some marine species I an not a marine biologist ) but A marlin was an option as lucky guest , but how this eye show out really because I saw the photo and looks to me in good shape , who remove the eye from the Marlin ? the marlin was hunted first( human or a big predator ?) I no idea if is ilegal to hunt a marlin this time in florida .I mean what is the real history about this new.

  19. Dr. McClain, you are my hero. I already knew it was a swordfish, but i was awaiting your marine biologyish mastery to confirm it. xo

  20. i was thinking it would be the biggest jellyfish’s eye?

    now it’s a sword fish.. okay by the way

  21. Trust me, you never want to win the Internet. It’s an even worse deal than “winning” a timeshare property.

    As for the rest of you, I must say I’m disappointed. Not one single Sandy Duncan or Peter Falk joke? Further proof that as a society, we are getting soft.

  22. Thats only half the it the left eye or the right eye????
    And is it possible the fish is still alive and wondering why it cannot swim straight??

  23. If anyone is interested in visiting it, the pickled eye will reside at Fish and Wildlife Research Institute’s Collections Department in St Petersburg, FL!

  24. It didn’t take much to call this for swordfish — it’s too big for anything but a blue marlin eye, and even then, it’s the wrong shape and structure.

    As for what cause this damage, I’d clearly go with “man” — there’s a big recreational and commercial buoy gear fishery for swordfish here in the Florida Straits, so I’m guessing a couple of them were cleaning a double marker, tossed one of the eyes overboard, and have been laughing uncontrollably ever since.

  25. Let’s just say it’s a warning about buying contact lens supplies at the Dollar Tree.

  26. …late chime in.
    Got this via email last week and knew it could not be a giant squid. We had handled one from a beaching in Pompano Beach in 94 wiht a 5″diameter eye (attached) – current eye is not cephalopod in structure. Large fish eyes left; Molas, billfish, swordfish (not sharks). Blue pigmentation in the eye limits vision of eye by prey (same as surrounding ocean = camouflage(?)) After take a minute to look I guessed Blue Marlin. But swordfish also have similar blue colors in the eyes, and they are often much larger (eyes).

  27. I was pretty sure the very first post I saw suggested this was a squid eye–interesting to find out it is really from a marlin or swordfish. It does look like that to me. Very, very cool stuff. Now to solve the rest of the mystery–where is the rest of the fish?

  28. It does look as if it’s from a swordfish. I’ve seen a lot of these fish and I recently happened to take photos of swordfish on a market stall in Catania, Sicily. My photos aren’t uber close up, but I can see that the eyeball above is pretty similar to those on my photos. Must have been a darn big fish though!

  29. If you read midway into the article (and those of you who do, are intelligent of course) you will notice it says:

    “New reports on the eye also mention the presence of bones which obviously rules out the giant squid!”

    This is not the eye of a giant squid.

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