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The First Known Immortal Animal

immortal jellyfish

Science

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.

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