FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Taking his usual morning stroll along the surf in Pompano Beach, Gino Covacci noticed a strange ball-like object at the high tide line. He kicked it over and found himself staring at the biggest eyeball he had ever seen.
The blue, softball-size orb he found Wednesday was a departure from the shells, cigarette butts and seaweed he usually sees. He put it in a plastic bag and put that in the refrigerator.
“It was very, very fresh,” he said Thursday. “It was still bleeding when I put it in the plastic bag.”
He notified a police officer, who gave him the phone number for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. No one could say immediately what species the giant eye came from.
Wildlife officers placed the eyeball on ice. It will be preserved in formalin, a mixture of formaldehyde and water, before being sent for analysis to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, said Carli Segelson, spokeswoman for the wildlife commission.
So what creature is now swimming around with an eye patch?
No one is certain, although the waters off South Florida abound with species large enough to be possibilities, including swordfish, tuna, sharks and whales. Giant squids are known for developing huge eyes to gather in what little light reaches their deep ocean habitat.
Charles Messing, a professor at Nova Southeastern University’s Oceanographic Center, said he couldn’t rule out a giant squid but his examination of photographs of various marine creatures led him to think the most likely candidate was a swordfish.
Swordfish are extremely common off South Florida, which supports an active commercial and recreational fishery.
Segelson said the identification of the species could take some time, although scientists are starting to narrow it down.
“Right now it sounds like a large fish is the leading candidate,” she said.