I don’t know how I missed this story when it hit about three weeks ago. I just heard about it last night over dinner conversation. But scientists have discovered a jellyfish, Turritopsis dohrnii, that typically reproduces the old-fashioned way, by the meeting of free-floating sperm and eggs. And most of the time they die the old-fashioned way too.
But and this is rub, under extreme duress, when the jellyfish faces starvation, physical damage of other crises arise it has a biophysical defense mechanism wherein its cell return to their young state.
The jellyfish turns itself into a bloblike cyst, which then develops into a polyp colony, essentially the first stage in jellyfish life.
The jellyfish’s cells are often completely transformed in the process. Muscle cells can become nerve cells or even sperm or eggs.
Through asexual reproduction, the resulting polyp colony can spawn hundreds of genetically identical jellyfish—near perfect copies of the original adult.
This unique approach to hardship may be helping Turritopsis swarms spread throughout the world’s oceans.
Scientists aren’t looking into turning the jellyfish into potential anti-aging drugs for humans, but they do think its unique cellular structure could help understand and improve the next generation of Cancer fighting agents.