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?

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

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

  1. 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?

  2. 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!

  3. 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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