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Nature & Environment

Secrets of the immortal jellyfish

By T.K. Randall
December 1, 2012 · Comment icon 17 comments



Image Credit: Mila Zinkova
Could the secret to immortality be found within a particularly unusual species of jellyfish ?
German marine-biology student Christian Sommer had been researching small aquatic invertebrates off the cliffs of Portofino when he came upon an interesting and obscure species known as Turritopsis dohrnii. After spending time studying the specimens, Sommer started to realise that what he had found was something rather special. The strange creatures appeared to age in reverse, becoming younger and younger before repeating their life cycle over again.

Scientists would later describe this process as similar to a butterfly that turns back in to a caterpillar or even a chicken that turns back in to an egg before hatching again. In short, the species never dies - it just repeats its life cycle over and over. What Sommers had discovered was a form of life that could legitimately lay claim to the term 'immortal'.[!gad]German marine-biology student Christian Sommer had been researching small aquatic invertebrates off the cliffs of Portofino when he came upon an interesting and obscure species known as Turritopsis dohrnii. After spending time studying the specimens, Sommer started to realise that what he had found was something rather special. The strange creatures appeared to age in reverse, becoming younger and younger before repeating their life cycle over again.

Scientists would later describe this process as similar to a butterfly that turns back in to a caterpillar or even a chicken that turns back in to an egg before hatching again. In short, the species never dies - it just repeats its life cycle over and over. What Sommers had discovered was a form of life that could legitimately lay claim to the term 'immortal'.
After several days he noticed that his Turritopsis dohrnii was behaving in a very peculiar manner, for which he could hypothesize no earthly explanation. Plainly speaking, it refused to die. It appeared to age in reverse, growing younger and younger.


Source: New York Times | Comments (17)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #8 Posted by Imaginarynumber1 11 years ago
If you open a New York Times this weekend, you'll find a story about jellyfish and immortality splashed across the cover of the Sunday magazine.The 6,500-word narrative is a compelling read, but a critic at the Knight Science Journalism program at MIT urges skepticism. "...the problem with this story is that much of what is reported is highly improbable, even unbelievable," writesPaul Raeburn. "And the writing is discursive to a fault." The author, novelist Nathaniel Rich, traveled to Japan to meet a scientist who thinks that an organism known asTurritopsis dohrnii may unlock the secret to hum... [More]
Comment icon #9 Posted by Simbi Laveau 11 years ago
[/size][/font][/color] Are you ever not a kill joy ?
Comment icon #10 Posted by Imaginarynumber1 11 years ago
Are you ever not a kill joy ? No. I don't like living in the Land of Make Believe.
Comment icon #11 Posted by The New Richard Nixon 11 years ago
Jellyfish can never been fully understood, so in my view this is still open as space. We don't know everything, he jealous that someone else claimed it first
Comment icon #12 Posted by little_dreamer 11 years ago
What happens if something eats the jellyfish?
Comment icon #13 Posted by pallidin 11 years ago
What happens if something eats the jellyfish? Probably not a good idea. One could easily die, I suppose. Especially if it includes their poison tenticles. Not sure about the main body though. Besides which, ingestion of long-lived species apparently does not transfer their longevity to the "eater" anyway.
Comment icon #14 Posted by The New Richard Nixon 11 years ago
yes you can eat jellyfish
Comment icon #15 Posted by Pinguin 11 years ago
Jellyfish are amazing creatures. It's fascinating what we find in this world.
Comment icon #16 Posted by OldN8Dogg 11 years ago
For those of you who would like to try: http://www.food.com/recipe/sesame-jellyfish-165901 haha
Comment icon #17 Posted by Mr Right Wing 11 years ago
Probably not a good idea. One could easily die, I suppose. Especially if it includes their poison tenticles. Not sure about the main body though. Besides which, ingestion of long-lived species apparently does not transfer their longevity to the "eater" anyway. Mammals have already been de-aged in the laboratory. Estradiol activates your telemeres lengthening mechanisms. Its found in milk, beans, soya and some other foods. Its also found in many contraceptive pills and levels are higher in women than in men (thats why they live longer). I recommend a pint of whole milk per day for the rest of y... [More]


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