No bigger than a human pinky, Turritopsis dohrnii, commonly referred to as the immortal jellyfish, possesses the baffling ability to live forever – that is, until a predator pounces.

1 All jellyfish exist in two forms: polyp form and medusa form. While most grow from polyp to medusa, the immortal jellyfish can alternate between both forms

2 Like all jellyfish, it has no brains nor a heart

3 The immortal jellyfish reproduces both sexually and asexually. When on the brink of death, the immortal jellyfish can revert back to the polyp stage and start its life cycle all over again. Fortunately, there is no limit to the number of times they can do this!

4 This ability is achieved through a rare process called transdifferentiation: the action of a mature, specialised cell transforming into a completely different mature, specialised cell. Scientists have been studying this cellular mechanism for its potential use in medicine

5 Despite being discovered way back in 1883, the special ability of this species was only realised in the mid-1990s

6 Scientist Shin Kubota, who has spent more than 15 years studying these organisms at Kyoto University’s Seto Marine Biological, found that certain conditions prevent reinvigoration: starvation, large bell size and water colder than 22 degrees Celsius

7 Immortal jellyfish are also known to be “hitchhikers”. They have been recorded hitching rides on cargo ships that use seawater for ballast. This phenomenon has allowed the species to rapidly populate the world’s oceans in recent decades

Read the rest of this article in No.113 Issue 3/2018 of Scuba Diver magazine by subscribing here or check out all of our publications here.

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