Check out the line at the local plastic surgeon’s office or the movie theatre playing the latest our-love-will-never-die vampire flick, and it’s plain to see that we are a people obsessed with youth and immortality, or rather, acutely aware of our own aging and mortality.
Enter the oldest living animal on Earth, Turritopsis nutricula, also aptly known as the immortal jellyfish, to take us to school on living a long, prosperous life.
The immortal jellyfish is capable of transdifferentiation. This means that it has the ability, at any stage in its life, to completely transform back into a polyp – its earliest form. For the coolest party trick ever, the immortal jellyfish doesn’t die; it merely regenerates its cells in a younger stage, then ages naturally again (the women along Rodeo Drive are reeling right now).
According to a New York Times article, scientists have observed the jellyfish “hitchhiking” on cargo ships and winding up in the Mediterranean, Panama, Spain, Florida, and Japan. “The jellyfish seems able to survive, and proliferate, in every ocean in the world.”
While built with the biological capability to live forever in a seemingly endless cycle of regeneration, the Turritopsis nutricula needs ideal conditions to do so. As a lowly invertebrate living in a large ocean, the immortal jellyfish is still vulnerable to becoming a larger creature’s dinner or getting a disease, all of which interfere with the whole living forever thing.
We won’t know for certain what this jellyfish’s miraculous abilities mean for human beings and our world’s ecosystems until more research is done. For now, we can learn quite a bit about self-preservation and being good stewards of the planet from this adaptable, self-sufficient, and unobtrusive creature.
Photo Credit: PopSci