So what sort of sea monster produced the giant eyeball that washed ashore last week in Pompano Beach?
A decent-sized, but by no means record-breaking, swordfish.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced Monday that an analysis of the softball-sized eyeball determined that a swordfish was the most likely source.
After news broke about the eyeball's arrival, speculation among scientists and the public ran to a giant squid, tuna, various sharks and marine mammals.
"Experts on site and remotely have viewed and analyzed the eye, and based on its color, size and structure, along with the presence of bone around it, we believe the eye came from a swordfish," said Joan Herrera, curator of collections at the wildlife agency's research institute in St. Petersburg.
In addition to the details of the eye's appearance, the wildlife commission's biologists detected straight-line cuts around the eyeball that indicated it had been removed by a fisherman.
David Kerstetter, research scientist and swordfish expert at Nova Southeastern University's Oceanographic Center, said the swordfish was probably about six feet long -- not counting the sword -- and weighed 200 to 250 pounds.
This may seem like a modest-sized fish for such a large eyeball, but swordfish have unusually big eyes to allow them to hunt at night and navigate depths of up to 1,000 feet.
"Their eyes are large because they've adapted to feeding in low light-level conditions," Kerstetter said. "So the recreational fisherman and commercial fishermen target them at night."
Swordfish are abundant off the southeast Florida coast, supporting active commercial and recreational fisheries. They can reach a weight of more than 1,100 pounds and a length of more than 14 feet.
"What's really surprising is that this hasn't happened before," he said. "But strange things happen, especially in South Florida."
Kevin Baxter, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said the eyeball would be placed in the commission's specimen collection.
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