MIAMI – It's not that body parts never wash ashore on Florida beaches. But usually it's not an eye the size of a softball.
State wildlife officials are trying to determine the species of a blue eyeball found by Gino Covacci Wednesday at Pompano Beach, north of Fort Lauderdale. Covacci told the Sun Sentinel that the gigantic eyeball was a far cry from the standard cigarette butts and seaweed he usually finds at the high-tide line.
'It was still bleeding when I put it in the plastic bag.'
- Gino Covacci, who found the giant eyeball
"It was very, very fresh," he told the Sentinel. "It was still bleeding when I put it in the plastic bag."
Covacci contacted the police, who put the eyeball on ice so it can be analyzed at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg.
Agency spokeswoman Carli Segelson says the eyeball likely came from a marine animal, since it was found on a beach. Possible candidates include a giant squid, a whale or some type of large fish.
Charles Messing, a professor at Nova Southeastern University's Oceanographic Center, told the Sun Sentinel a squid was certainly in the running, but his 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, the Sentinel said.
An assistant biology professor at Florida International University in Miami on Friday agreed that blue eyeball may have come from a deep sea squid or a large swordfish. Heather Bracken-Grissom says she started discussing the eyeball with her colleagues as soon as they saw the pictures on the Internet.
Bracken-Grissom says the lens and pupil are similar to the shape of a deep sea squid's eye. She notes that the squid's eyes can be as large as soccer balls and they easily dislodge.
Florida wildlife officials have sent it to a research facility in St. Petersburg for testing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.