Jellyfish are the stuff of nightmares. I find them fascinating and terrifying all at once. The more I learn about them the more fascinating and terrifying they are. Today I learned about this one, the Turritopsis nutricula. The immortal jellyfish. The jellyfish that, quite literally, can live forever by turning itself back into its polyp stage and starting life all over again.
Turritopsis nutricula, the immortal jellyfish, is a hydrozoan whose medusa, or jellyfish, form can revert to the polyp stage after becoming sexually mature. It is the only known case of an animal capable of reverting completely to a sexually immature, colonial stage after having reached sexual maturity as a solitary stage. It does this through the cell development process of transdifferentiation. Cell transdifferentiation is when the jellyfish “alters the differentiated state of the cell and transforms it into a new cell”. In this process the medusa of the immortal jellyfish is transformed into the polyps of a new polyp colony. First, the umbrella reverts itself and then the tentacles and mesoglea get resorbed. The reverted medusa then attaches itself to the substrate by the end that had been at the opposite end of the umbrella and starts giving rise to new polyps to form the new colony.
While they do have the ability to revert to a “younger” stage and this process can theoretically go on indefinitely which would render the Turritopsis nutricula immortal, most of them do succumb to nature either by being eaten or by some crazy jellyfish disease.
You could get one as a pet and claim it’s been in your family for six generations or something and no one could argue with you. Just hand it down to your kids and make up a story about how one of their ancestors caught it with their bare hands while living on the coastline of a Viking village or something.