There’s only one inevitability in life – one day, our life will end and we will no longer be here. We are all congruent parts in the circle life, and it is an inescapability that one day we will all perish. The only way to escape this certainty would be immortality, and that’s only something in sci-fi movies or superhero comics, right?
Well, according to new scientific discoveries, the earth’s answer to immortality actually lies in our oceans. More specifically, in a jellyfish named Turritopsis Dohrnii – appropriately named “The Immortal Jellyfish.” Here’s some mind-blowing facts on the newly found species – but how exactly is it immortal? Let’s discuss!
Where are the species found?
They have so far been found in the Mediterranean Sea and around the oceans of Japan. However, they are also thought to live in and around other parts of the earth’s waters too. Their widespread population is thought to be because they are such tiny creatures and so can attach themselves to our ships, basically taking themselves on a hitchhike across the ocean.
What is its specialized life cycle?
This very specialized jellyfish belongs to the Cnidaria phylum. Usually, jellyfish exist in either the polyp form or as medusa form. However, the immortal jellyfish can alternate between the two.
Polyps are tiny immobile jellyfish forms that stay attached to larger structures (rocks, whales, ships), whereas medusae are mobile jellyfish that swim about – the bell-shaped one’s you would typically think of like your standard jellyfish that dangle their tentacles.
Usually, jellyfish begin their lives as polyps, but eventually, they will gain sexual maturity and grow into the larger ‘adult’ cycle of medusae. However, what makes the immortal jellyfish so special is that they actually have the ability to stop and reverse this transition of polyp to medusa. That’s right! As fully grown mature adults, they can revert back to the polyp stage. This transition is a process called transdifferentiation. Fortunately, there is no limit as to how many times this can happen too.
However, transdifferentiation is not a self-governed process, and it is, unfortunately, something that the jellyfish cannot control. Usually, this process takes place if the creature is either injured, starving, or its environmental conditions are not survivable. They can, of course, be eaten or pass away from natural causes such as diseases too.
What do they look like?
The medusa phase of the immortal jellyfish looks somewhat like a typical jellyfish. They are bell-shaped with an average diameter of just 0.18 of an inch (4.5 mm). They can also grow up to 80-90 tentacles.
The polyp phase is even more minuscule, best described as cone-like form with growing stolons of upright branches that will grow into tentacles when fully grown.
The wide-open and deep blue spaces of the oceans are so vast it’s thought that we have still only discovered around 5% of the ocean floor. Who knows what other kinds of life-bending creatures lurk at the bottom? With the discovery of this new astonishing creature, does this mean we have unlocked the secret to immortality? Damn, nature you crazy.