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Woah! This Jellyfish Is Immortal

Woah! This Jellyfish Is Immortal

Written by Jaymi Heimbuch

No brain, no stomach, no central nervous system, no respiratory system, no circulatory system…You would think jellyfish would be weird enough creatures. But nope. One species has taken “freak” to a whole new level with the ability to be, well, immortal.

Meet Turritopsis nutricula, better known as the immortal jellyfish — and sometimes known as the Benjamin Button jellyfish because of how it transforms itself from mature adult back into baby form in times of stress or injury. Yep, this species of jellyfish has the ability to revert completely back to its polyp stage after reaching maturity. Essentially, the medusa, or mature form of the jellyfish, can transform into the polyps of a new polyp colony in a process is called cell transdifferentiation. Here’s how MNN explains it:

If a mature Turritopsis is threatened — injured or starving, for example — it attaches itself to a surface in warm ocean waters and converts into a blob. From that state, its cells undergo transdifferentiation, in which the cells essentially transform into different types of cells. Muscle cells can become sperm or eggs, or nerve cells can change into muscle cells, “revealing a transformation potential unparalleled in the animal kingdom,” according to the original study of the species published in 1996.

In a New York Times article on the discovery of the ability of this species:

One of the paper’s authors, Ferdinando Boero, likened the Turritopsis to a butterfly that, instead of dying, turns back into a caterpillar. Another metaphor is a chicken that transforms into an egg, which gives birth to another chicken. The anthropomorphic analogy is that of an old man who grows younger and younger until he is again a fetus. For this reason Turritopsis dohrnii is often referred to as the Benjamin Button jellyfish.

Essentially a mature individual can transform itself into polyps, or a whole bunch of baby jellyfish. This cycling through of the stages of life is why it is called “immortal.” However, while mind-blowing, we have to keep at least one foot in reality here. While theoretically this process can go on indefinitely, the fact is most individuals of the species do actually die, and there is no laboratory evidence showing continuous generations created in this strange way.

Okay, so Turritopsis nutricula is not exactly immortal as in it has been alive forever and will be alive forever. But it does indeed have the ability to reproduce in a, well shall we say immortal-like way that no other known creature can. Could the jellyfish hold the key to actual immortality? That is still up for debate.

Here’s a fantastic video explaining this curious creature:

This post was originally published by TreeHugger.

 

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Photo: Huffington Post/Screenshot

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143 comments

+ add your own
7:00AM PST on Dec 17, 2013

Interesting.

9:33AM PDT on May 10, 2013

pretty cool

10:53AM PST on Mar 1, 2013

thanks for sharing :)

3:07PM PST on Feb 26, 2013

Jellyfish for President!

10:46AM PST on Feb 15, 2013

Not thrilled about removing the lens from a chicken eye, but apart from that, this was fascinating. The narrator is excellent at making science accessible, understandable, and fun. I always thought jellyfish were amazing, but this is mind-blowing.

5:35AM PST on Feb 13, 2013

Nothing more amazing than nature :)

3:34PM PST on Feb 12, 2013

Wow

1:33PM PST on Feb 12, 2013

Wowwy zowwy

11:34AM PST on Feb 12, 2013

Interesting.

1:46AM PST on Feb 12, 2013

Beautiful jelly fish.

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