October Species in the Spotlight

🐠🐠 October Species in Spotlight: The immortal jellyfish, Turritopsis Dohrnii🐠🐠

Immortality…seems impossible, except, is it really? For us humans, immortality is the stuff of science fiction but in the animal kingdom, it is a different matter entirely. While abilities such as immortality might seem out of this world, they can actually be found in some of the unlikeliest of places and animals. While it might be hard to spot, lurking beneath the surface of our oceans is a tiny jellyfish, less than half a centimetre in width with an incredible ability. Turritopsis dohrnii, otherwise known as the Immortal Jellyfish, can be found within the Atlantic, Caribbean and Indo-Pacific oceans. Despite their 90 tentacles, they are harmless to humans due to their small size and yet they have captivated the interest of scientists for over a century due to their unique ability of immortality.

The lifecycle of a normal jellyfish is a fascinating one in itself that isn’t too far off from science fiction. When an adult jellyfish reproduces, the larvae will attach to a solid surface in the sea and form a polyp. This polyp will then clone itself and develop into a colony, they can cover an entire boat dock in just a few days through cloning. When these polyps are mature, they undergo budding where tiny juvenile jellyfish, or medusae, are released into the water where they develop into adults.

This process is the same for the immortal jellyfish except with one key difference, whenever T. dohrnii gets injured, old, or even just threatened it can revert back into a polyp and begin life again. Each time they do this, they clone themselves to create thousands of identical jellyfish all with the same ability. This process can go in indefinitely which grants the immortal jellyfish the classification of biologically immortal. This has led to scientists studying the immortal jellyfish for over a century to learn more about ageing and immortality, which has led to some important advances in stem cell research.

So, while T.dohrnii is technically immortal, it might not quite be the immortality most of us imagine. Would you want to turn back into a baby, make some clones of yourself and grow up again whenever you got injured or old?

{Written by Conner Mccall}