ST. PETERSBURG - The mystery of a giant eyeball that washed ashore in Pompano Beach this week may be solved in Tampa Bay.
The big blue eye, which is currently at a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission field office in South Florida, will be transported to the agency's research institute in St. Petersburg within the next two weeks.
"Once it gets over here, our staff will be doing some genetic testing to confirm what the species might be," said Kevin Baxter with the FWC. "DNA tests are likely to be taken on what's become a worldwide article of interest."
The research institute has been contacted by people from as far away as Asia and Europe inquiring about the eyeball. There's been rampant speculation about what type of animal it came from, such as a large fish or a giant squid.
While the research institute hasn't made a determination about the eyeball, the initial suspicion is that it came from a fish with a backbone, not a squid.
"A squid is an invertebrate, so it's not technically what we would call a fish," Baxter said.
Fishermen have been talking about the eyeball for days, as the size and color have fascinated those who regularly venture out into the Gulf and the Atlantic.
"I've done a lot of tautog and mackerel fishing, and giant shark. Haven't seen anything with a blue eye," said Frank Leo, who works at the bait shop at the end of the Skyway Pier. "It's totally foreign to me."
Dave Roberts has fished both Florida coasts, and his guess about the eye's origin is among the most popular on internet.
"I would say it's an eye of a swordfish," Roberts suggested. "Swordfish are bill fish and they do most of their hunting at night. So therefore they have to have big eyes to see well," he said.
Several marine biologists have echoed that opinion, but most agree the fish would have to be enormous to have an eye that large. The blue orb is about the size of a softball.
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Wildlife officials say 20 whales believed to be part of a pod found stranded in the Everglades this week were spotted Friday afternoon moving closer toward shore, a sign they may be reversing their earlier, positive course.