Wild & Weird: Undersea Immortality
Ben Franklin once said that nothing in this world is certain except death and taxes; clearly he wasn’t a jellyfish man. As scientists discovered in 1996, Turritopsis dohrnii, also known as the “immortal jellyfish,” has in fact figured out a way to escape death (and reportedly paid no taxes this year, either).
At any stage in its development, this jelly can turn back into a polyp, growing younger and younger and then starting over again. As you might expect, immortality has allowed it to spread far and wide in what one biology professor has called “a silent invasion.”
What does the jelly’s curious secret mean for people? According to Shin Kubota, a Japanese scientist who’s devoted himself to the species for years — and become a famous jellyfish songwriter in the process — “Once we determine how the jellyfish rejuvenates itself, we should achieve very great things. My opinion is that we will evolve and become immortal ourselves.” Kubota’s not sure that’s a good thing, though — he doesn’t think humans are ready for eternal life.