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Turritopsis nutricula

“Immortal” Jellyfish Invading World’s Waters

February 02, 2009 11:03 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The Turritopsis nutricula is the only creature on the Earth that has the ability to reverse the aging process, scientists say.

Sea Animal Rapidly Spreading

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The jellyfish Turritopsis nutricula can revert to its sexually immature juvenile polyp state after the adult mating process, unlike other jellyfish that die after reproduction.

“Theoretically, this cycle can repeat indefinitely, rendering it potentially immortal,” reports the Times of London.

And marine biologists say that the creatures, which are native to tropical waters, seem to be spreading rapidly all over the world, aided by the discharge of ships’ ballast water in ports.

 “We are looking at a worldwide silent invasion,” said Dr. Maria Miglietta of the Smithsonian Tropical Marine Institute, to The Telegraph, who said that recent genetic analyses have proven that Turritopsis is spreading.

Marine biologists and geneticists say that the age reversal is achieved through a cell development process called transdifferentiation, during which cells change from one type into another, a process that usually occurs only during organ regeneration, but seems to be a normal part of the Turritopsis life cycle.

The creatures, which are characterized by filmy bells, revert to their younger selves during times of stress, such as when food is scarce. While the species normally reproduces with sperm and eggs, it has the ability to “survive tough times by collapsing into a blob and then growing back into its youthful, stalklike form,” according to Science News.

“This is equivalent to a butterfly that goes back to a caterpillar,” Miglietta said to Science News.

Turritopsis nutricula is a solitary predator and a hydrozoan
that measures around 4-5 mm in diameter. It distinguishes itself from other Hydrozoan cnidarians with the ability of its solitary medusa to revert to the polyp stage after achieving sexual maturity, and it is reported that 100 percent of medusa transform in this way in the laboratory.

Related Topic: Glowing jellyfish protein wins scientists Nobel Prize

Reference: Turritopsis nutricula study

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