Turritopsis nutricula - BioDiscov
Turritopsis nutricula – ©muzina_shanghai

Immortal Jellyfish. Are you looking for an Elixir of life? Do you want to be immortal? It is now possible, BUT only if you become a Jellyfish! Actually, jellyfish especially Turritopsis dohrnii and Turritopsis nutricula are the only immortal organisms in the animal kingdom that can live forever. These immortal creatures belong to the Hydrozoa class. They have a particular behaviour to transform their cells from a mature state back to immaturity what makes them immortal. 

Find out in this article a description of these fascinating creatures, the jellyfish lifespan and the process they go through to become immortal.

What are Turritopsis dohrnii and Turritopsis nutricula?

Turritopsis dohrnii is a species of jellyfish belonging to the hydrozoan family and found in the Mediterranean and in Japanese waters. This species was discovered by Christian Sommer in 1988. On the other hand, Turritopsis nutricula is also a species of jellyfish belonging to the hydrozoan family native to the Caribbean Sea. In 1857, John McCrady discovered this species.

Turritopsis dohrnii - BioDiscov
Turritopsis dohrnii – ©actionfornature

These two small animals have no brain or heart and have one and the same opening to feed and defecate. Moreover, these tiny creatures have a bright-red stomach that is visible in the middle of their transparent bell. They have also edges that are lined with up to 90 white tentacles. 

Territopsis/ Jellyfish life cycle

Members of this Cnidaria Phylum begin their life in the form of a polyp (like coral or a sea anemone). Before the formation of this polyp, external fertilization of male sperm and female eggs gives birth to tiny larvae called planulas. Then, these larvae will develop into branched polyps attached to the seabed. A few days later, tiny, free jellyfish break off from the end of the polyp. After that, they roam the oceans with their long tentacles. 

How jellyfish can be immortal? 

Jellyfish life cycle - BioDiscov
Jellyfish life cycle: 1: gametes – 2: planula – 3: young polyp – 4: polyps + bud – 5: strobile – 6: young jellyfish – 7: adult jellyfish © Éléonore Lamoglia

Do you want to know how long do jellyfish live and how they can be immortal? here is the answer. These jellyfish can, once their sexual maturity has been reached, return to their polyp state. It is exactly like a butterfly that becomes a caterpillar again or a chicken that becomes an egg. In this case, cells return to their original state and the jellyfish becomes polyp again, then transforms again, and so on.

This rare process, known as transdifferentiation, is usually an adaptative strategy that starts to face critical situations of the environment. These critical situations can be stress (temperature changes, salinity, lack of oxygen, etc.), lack of food or some injuries. As a result, the small jellyfish activates its rejuvenation mechanism in order to return to its original state of a polyp. On the other hand, this jellyfish can of course die in the event of attacks or diseases.

The immortality of these unique and fascinating creatures could be useful for medical research and in particular for research on the life cycle of cells in the human body. It could also help scientists replace cells that have been damaged by diseases.

Unfortunately, this immortality has also a negative side. It begins to become critical as these jellyfish are gradually spreading and “invasions” can be reported thousands of kilometres from their place of origin.

Nature is so beautiful!

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