Immortality Floats in the Ocean

The Hydrozoan jellyfish looks very similar to other jellyfish.  It’s got long tendrils and a bell-shaped body that gracefully travels through the ocean.  What sets this particular jellyfish apart from the others is that, if it chooses, it can’t die.

This perplexing trait is called transdifferentiation, where one type of cell is transformed into another type of cell.  A partial version of this process is found in other animals.  Salamanders can grow back their tails and limbs if they’re attacked.  Starfish can regrow body parts if they’re severed.  However, the hydrozoa can revert from its mature adult stage back to its immature polyp stage by undergoing this incredible transformation.  It would be like you or me deciding that we want to be a kid again and, shortly thereafter, we’re back in pampers.

This process isn’t a one-shot deal, either.  The jellyfish can routinely perform this transformation, leaving no limit for its life span at all.  Scientists have begun researching this species more in an effort to understand the biological aspect of its self controlled age reversal.

What scientists are worried about, though, is that due to this animal’s extremely rare ability, it has sprung up in every ocean across the world and its numbers are growing.  Whereas they used to be confined to waters in the Caribbean, they now wash up on the shores of every continent.  Some are calling it “a silent invasion,” because their numbers have spiked so high.

One thing is for sure, though.  Immortality is real, and it’s apparently occurring in one of nature’s most elegant and perhaps misunderstood creatures. 

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