The turritopsis nutricula
species of jellyfish may
be the only animal in the world to have truly discovered the fountain of
Since it is capable of cycling
from a mature adult stage to an immature polyp stage and back again, there may
be no natural limit to its life span. Scientists say the hydrozoan
jellyfish is the only known animal that can repeatedly turn back the hands of
time and revert to its polyp state (its first stage of life).
The key lies in a process
called transdifferentiation, where one type of cell is transformed into another
type of cell. Some animals can undergo limited
transdifferentiation and regenerate organs, such as salamanders, which can
regrow limbs. Turritopsi nutricula, on the other hand, can regenerate its
entire body over and over again. Researchers are studying the jellyfish to discover how it is able
to reverse its aging process.
Because they are able to bypass
death, the number of individuals is spiking. They're now found in oceans around
the globe rather than just in their native Caribbean waters. "We are looking at a worldwide silent invasion,"
says Dr. Maria Miglietta of the Smithsonian Tropical Marine
Bryan Nelson is a regular contributor to Mother Nature Network, where a version of this post