Science

The First Known Immortal Animal

The First Known Immortal Animal

On the face of it, immortality sounds like science fiction or fantasy. The possibility to indefinitely extend ones’ life certainly sparks imagination. If someone were to discover a way to make it a reality, there is no doubt that they would become very, very rich.

Throughout history, fanciful tales have been told about those who have searched for the means to make themselves immortal. The fountain of youth and the Holy Grail are often the subjects of these tales. Unfortunately for us, they have remained just that – stories.

This isn’t the case for one particular ocean dwelling animal. An animal that has achieved what humans have longed for since the dawn of time – the Turritopsis nutricula.

The Immortal Animal

Scientists have recently discovered the world’s first known immortal animal. A jellyfish species named Turritopsis nutricula. The jellyfish was originally from the Caribbean, but has since spread all over the world’s oceans.

The jellyfish’s secret to genetic immortality lies in it reverting back to a younger stage in its life. It enters an earlier polyp stage after it mates, and by doing so, completely restarts its lifecycle. In the case of Turritopsis nutricula, sex really does seem to be the key to a long, healthy life.

Forever Young

Because the jellyfish can repeat this process indefinitely, Turritopsis nutricula will never die from aging, ever. That doesn’t mean the jellyfish can’t be killed, however. It’s still susceptible to physical injuries, disease and predators like anything else. Immortality for this jellyfish just means that unlike other animals, it will not die from old age.

Researchers hope that studying the Turritopsis will lead to breakthroughs in reversing the human aging process. Who knows, maybe jellyfish will be the key to creating our very own immortality potion.

References:
Gilbert, Scott F. (2006). “Cheating Death: The Immortal Life Cycle of Turritopsis
Photo is available under a Creative Commons Attribution license by Wikicommons.

View Comments (11)

11 Comments

  1. ClubMets

    November 10, 2010 at 4:36 am

    There can be ONLY ONE!

  2. Heino

    December 31, 2010 at 3:53 am

    Its not the only immortal organism…perhaps correct to say the first multi-cellular organism that has no “expiry date”. Unicellular organisms like amoeba also don’t die

    • kurt

      February 9, 2011 at 11:24 pm

      Actually, that’s not grammatically correct. Single cell creatures such as amoeba do die, they just don’t age as we define it.

      • jb

        January 21, 2012 at 9:59 pm

        Grammar is moot, and the marvel of Turritopsis nutricula acknowledged; But unless all offspring die, then animals that reproduce by fission are immortal. Since it seems to me that the ‘individual (sic) life’ does not attach to, or stop with, the ‘parent’ nor start with either of the offspring, the original ‘self’ continues (diluted?) with both ‘offspring’. Is my ‘self’ diluted as I grow bigger from an infant? Life is too marvelous. :)

    • John Austin

      July 1, 2013 at 5:08 pm

      Actually they called it the immortal “animal”. By definition animals are multicellular, so your point is moot.

  3. Alex

    December 31, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    The species name is lowercase; the genus is uppercase. It should be Turritopsis nutricula.

  4. Ryzen

    April 22, 2011 at 3:57 am

    What if I eat a lot of that jellyfish or take its cells and inject them into my body, will I become immortal or at least become a vampire? ^_^

  5. BEAR

    January 19, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    YAAAAY bloody Jellyfish they would wouldn’t they!! :3

  6. jb

    January 21, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    Amazing!
    Does this sea jelly spawn young, or does it swap DNA and use the regression to reboot its life with the new genetics (becoming its own child)?

  7. Roy C

    March 22, 2012 at 3:25 am

    Just what we need… People who live forever. There are some people who should definitely not be allowed to live forever. They do enough damage in a normal lifetime.

  8. Brie

    July 9, 2014 at 7:21 am

    Hopefully there is an application process for immortality. Working at the BMV equals automatic disqualification.

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