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Duration:03:42
Uploaded:2012-10-17
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Hank combines two of his favorite things - talking to scientists and strange things washing up on the beach - to bring you the Mystery of the Giant Eyeball.

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[Intro]

Welcome back to SciShow Breaking News, I'm Hank Green, and 
there are many things in this world that give me pleasure, but two of them are talking to scientists and weird stuff washing up on beaches. This week, I got to enjoy both of those things together.

I'm sure that you've heard by now about the giant, blue eyeball that washed to shore in Southern Florida. A beachcomber came across it last week and turned it over to Florida's Department of Fish and Wildlife, basically saying 'Urrrgh?!'

Well, the specimen found it's way to the lab of Tom Reinert, a research administrator for Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, who personally tackled the giant eyeball mystery.
So while the rest of the Internet was asking everyone with a PhD after their name what they thought the eye looked like, I thought I'd talk to the guy who actually who actually had it sitting on his desk. 

From his lab in Tequesta, Florida, Dr. Reinert was good enough to tell us not just who the eye belonged to, but how he figured it out. Science!

So let's look at the data, but whats first the size. It was originally reported at being 25 centimeters in diameter, about the size of a dinner plate but it turns out that was misreported 25 centimeters in circumference of the eyeball not it's diameter divided by pi. The misreported figure let's some experts to speculate that it had to be the eye of  a colossal squid, but in fact because it is much smaller than that it does not have to be the eye of a colossal squid.

So to figure out if it was a squid or a fish Reinert literally smelled it. Something the rest of us thankfully couldn't do. He says " It smelled fishy and it was still fresh", science at work. The smell told him that we were dealing with the eye of a big fish and not some creature like a squid, plus as he put it "I was able to rule out the  Kracken."

A quick inspection can also showed that the eye was surrounded by a bone, this meant that it wasn't as one of his colleagues had suggested from a big eyed shark. Since shark skeletons are made of cartilage not bone. Now, trying to narrow it down he guessed it could be the eye of a Mola-Mola also known as a Sun fish, but a fellow marine biologist told him that sunfish eye always have gold colored irises.

Finally, Reinert looked at when at where the eye was found, this is the time of year when large numbers of swordfish congregate of the coast of south-eastern Florida as they migrate north. And swordfish have big eyes because they spend most of their time in the seas deeper, darker depths. From 500 to as much as 2500 m below the surface. What's more, their eyes are surrounded by specialized bony rings called orbital cups, much like the bone found around the specimen, and swordfish's eyes are always blue. 

Now, other similar fish like Marlins and sailfish have similar blue bone encircled eyes, but those species are usually released unharmed after they are caught. At least if people are obeying the law, while the specimens appear to have been cut out with a tool. So, Reinert concluded that the eye probably came from a swordfish that was caught and gutted by a fisherman out at sea. And finally, if that doesn't settle it completely for you a sample of the eye's tissue has been sent off for genetic testing, which will tell us for certain whether Dr. Reinert is right. He said that he, himself, is not a hundred percent confident so he's looking forward  to seeing the results himself. As he put it, "That's how we do science, you eliminate some possibilities. When you do have other possibilities become more probable, science strives to reduce uncertainties and that's what we're trying to do here".
 Thank you to Dr.Reinert for his time and to the Florida's Department of Fish and Wildlife conservation commission an also to the poor dead eyeless swordfish, I hope it was delicious. 

And thank you for  watching  this episode of  SciShow breaking news. If you want to suggest topics for us or have any questions or comments we're on Facebook and twitter and of course down in the comments below.