Does this jellyfish have the secret to eternal life?
Imagine growing up, growing old, then growing younger, starting over, and growing up all over again…
That’s what Turritopsis nutricula is already doing. This jellyfish (about the size of your thumb) starts out as what’s called a polyp, and then grows into what a typical jelly looks like. Then it goes back to being a baby jelly polyp again, and then takes another turn at being an adult.
People who have studied these jellies think they can keep repeating this life cycle indefinitely. They never die of old age.
That doesn’t mean they never die at all – just not from old age. They can get sick, or get attacked. But if they can avoid that kind of demise, they are considered “biologically immortal.”
Here’s how it’s done
There are already certain animals who can regrow body parts. Salamanders can regrow limbs. They do this by transdifferentiation: taking one kind of cell and turning it into another kind of cell. But Turritopsis has taken this skill to a whole other level – not just growing specific body parts, but regrowimg its whole body. No other animal is known to do this.
On the move
Turritopsis is on the move! They used to live only in the Caribbean, but now they’re being seen in oceans all over the world. This seems to be due to the warming of the oceans.
Their numbers are growing. It may be that these immortal jellies will inherit the earth!