Immortal:

adjective

1. not mortal; not liable or subject to death; undying.

2. remembered or celebrated through all time.

3. not liable to perish or decay; imperishable; everlasting.

Immortality; the legendary state that humans have been striving for a very long time. But it is impossible to achieve; nothing organic can live forever. Or can it?

Meet Turritopsis nutricula. This little hydrozoan has achieved what no other multicellular organism (that we know of) has ever achieved before; it is the immortal jellyfish. Well to be precise, the biological immortal jellyfish. This means that theoretically, one of these little creatures could quite happily live for an indefinite period of time, except that most of them are likely to succumb and die off due to predation or disease, especially in the plankton stage.

The immortal jellyfish, in the flesh

 

 

So how does the immortal stinger do it? Well let’s start from the beginning:

The male and female jellyfish release gametes (sex cells) and the eggs become planula larvae that seek out a surface to rest on before becoming a polyp (which is the first form jellyfish take). These hydrozoan polyps are called hydroids. They make up a hydroid colony, with polyps all connected to each other by a tube known as a stolon.

The hydroid colony then buds and releases tiny jellyfish (which are scientifically known as medusoids) that are only a few millimetre across. The tiny jellyfish feed on plankton and grow to a maximum size of about 4.5 millimetres (0.18 in) after 2 to 4 weeks where they take their second form and are now known as ‘medusa’. They are now sexually mature and can reproduce in the usual way, but if the conditions get a little dire, such as starvation, changes in temperature or drops in salinity, they switch up the style and carry out something amazing.

The hydroid colony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An adult will actually revert back into a polyp, by absorbing the tentacles and the jellyfish bell as it reattaches itself to the ground. It then extends those its stolons and begins making a whole new hydroid colony. What’s even better is that they can perform this cool trick at any time during jellyfish development.

The immortal jellyfish does this by going through a process known as cell ‘transdifferentiation’. Cell transdifferentiation is when an already differentiated cell is altered and transformed into a completely new cell. This is one organism that the Grim Reaper doesn’t have an easy time dealing with!

It’s a stinging sensation!

 

 

Now imagine if humans could harness that potential. We could use the process to heal or replace damaged tissue without any adverse effects. Immortality may not as far out of our reach as we had once thought.

Sources:

http://www.realmonstrosities.com/2012/01/immortal-jellyfish.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turritopsis_nutricula

By Myles Scott – The Demotivator