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GIANT EYEBALL PANIC ends: Oceanic peeper identified

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The giant eyeball that washed up on a Florida beach last week has been identified, quelling fears of a new monster swimming in the vasty deep.

Researchers at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) report that the eye has been positively identified as coming from Xiphias gladius, or as it is more commonly known, the swordfish, which is fished privately and commercially off the Florida coast.

"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 FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. "Based on straight-line cuts visible around the eye, we believe it was removed by a fisherman and discarded."

One question that remains, however, is why the unknown fisherman saw fit to cut out his prey's eye. Commercial fishermen typically use a circular saw on swordfish to cut off the head, pectoral fins and tail, to cut down on storage space – there's be little reason for a private fisherman to remove the eyes from a carcass.

The swordfish has such huge eyes because of the large range of depths in which it hunts. Xiphias gladius seeks out prey species up to 2,000 feet down, although at night it feeds closer to the surface. The huge eyes have evolved to deal with low-light environments, and swordfish are one of the few fish species whose bodies produce heat around the eye to improve vision.

Now that the eyeball-from-the-briny-deep mystery has been solved, Floridians can go back to worrying about other mystery animals, such as the St. Augustine Monster or Two-Toed Tom. ®

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