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"Because they are able to bypass death, the number of individuals is spiking."
March 23, 2010 1:49 PM   Subscribe

The world's only immortal animal
The turritopsis nutricula species of jellyfish may be the only animal in the world to have truly discovered the fountain of youth. (via rw)
posted by kliuless (56 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Also previously.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:51 PM on March 23, 2010


Immortal? Tentacled? I don't like where this is going at all.
posted by brundlefly at 1:54 PM on March 23, 2010 [43 favorites]


Is that what happened to the rest of the Time Lords?
posted by Ruki at 1:54 PM on March 23, 2010


What if we declared slime molds to be animals, as they deserve to be named? Wouldn't they be biologically immortal?

If I can't share a kingdom with slime molds, I'm not sure I still want to pledge allegiance to Animalia.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:58 PM on March 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I thought this was going to be about some sort of creature that literally cannot die from anything. But merely not dying of old age is cool too. :-)
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 1:58 PM on March 23, 2010


The key lies in a process called transdifferentiation


It REALLY happens, it's not simply symbolic.
posted by archivist at 2:01 PM on March 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


Jesus, don't they get bored?
posted by longsleeves at 2:01 PM on March 23, 2010


Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 2:02 PM on March 23, 2010 [2 favorites]




We must consume them to absorb their powers before it is too late!
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:08 PM on March 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


And as these immortal animals gain that unending life length (through the clonality of it all, their soma staying w. the one genotype so to speak), they come to realize their inner vegetable, their fine and finely evolved plantness ---as such immortality is relatively commonplace with plants (and their 'modular' and indeterminate form of growth vs the unitary, determinate growth of the animals (...excepting these fascinating bryozans and a small number of other modular animals.
posted by JL Sadstone at 2:09 PM on March 23, 2010


Jesus, don't they get bored?

Well, there's all that dueling in car parks, sharpening your sword, working on a better back flip, flashing back to jelly fish that didn't make it but who passed on important lessons...
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:10 PM on March 23, 2010 [28 favorites]


I thought this was going to be about some sort of creature that literally cannot die from anything. But merely not dying of old age is cool too. :-)

The Fountain of Youth and God Mode are two different things. Time... give it time.
posted by tybeet at 2:10 PM on March 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


If lobsters don't grow, why haven't any labs tried raising a lobster in a completely sterile environment with nutrition provided as needed to see how long it would last? Would it keep growing (I assume yes?)?

I propose we grow a 50 foot tall lobster, and then unleash it on NYC to prevent nuclear war.
posted by mccarty.tim at 2:11 PM on March 23, 2010 [10 favorites]


I was actually planning to look these things up after encountering one in Endless Ocean 2 and having the game mention the immortality thing. Thanks!
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:11 PM on March 23, 2010


"In fact, it is similar to what is seen in mammalian embryos, where p21 also happens to be inactive after DNA damage."

So what happens to humans that have inactive p21?
posted by rebent at 2:14 PM on March 23, 2010


Aww, don't be scared kids! I've every confidence that we can kill these critters real good...
posted by stenseng at 2:15 PM on March 23, 2010


Being reincarnated as one of these things would be karmic poetic justice for seeking immortality for it's own sake, instead of for the benefit of all sentient beings.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:18 PM on March 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would prefer immortality if I didn't have to cycle down to being a baby. Maybe a five year old. I could deal with that.

I wouldn't be amazingly shocked if p21 knockout turned out not to have a bunch of scary cancer consequences. Nature just doesn't care enough to perfect a species and polish everything to a fine shine, so the lack of p21 is just an "oopsie" that doesn't matter for the survival of the species. We could flip a few bits and cure scurvy, forever. Humans already have the mechanism for Vitamin C production. We have a slightly defective version of the gene for the last step in the manufacture of Vitamin C. We have for millions of years. It's just not that important on the macroscale. Did you have some more babies before you died of scurvy? Great, we're done with you. Go lay down in that ditch and provide nutrients for some fungi.
posted by adipocere at 2:25 PM on March 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


Not the only one - Wikipedia says, "See Hydra – another kind of cnidarian that is claimed to be immortal".
posted by w0mbat at 2:26 PM on March 23, 2010


Immortal? Tentacled? I don't like where this is going at all.

And they're going everywhere. As Dr Maria Miglietta of the Smithsonian Tropical Marine Institute says, "We are looking at a worldwide silent invasion."

The Fountain of Youth and God Mode are two different things.

And it seems like they have a bit of both. From the article I linked above:
... in cases of starvation, physical damage or another crisis, "Instead of sure death, Turritopsis transforms all of its existing cells into a younger state," [Maria Pia Miglietta, a researcher at Pennsylvania State University] says.

Through this process - called transdifferentiation - the jellyfish is able to return to its polyp state, the first stage of the life of a jellyfish. During transdifferentiation, its cells can become completely transformed. For example, a muscle cell could become a nerve cell - even an egg. The jellyfish then reproduces asexually and breed hundreds of jellyfish that are identical to the original adult
That article says this only happens as an "emergency measure," so it sounds like more of invoking the Hand of God (or releasing the fairy from the bottle), than idly sipping from the fountain when your tentacles start to get creaky.

It's a tiny creature, first discovered in 1883, but wasn't until the 1990s that the possibility for this reversal process was uncovered.


So what happens to humans that have inactive p21?

I don't think you want that to always be inactive. According to this article, "In these mice without p21, we do see the expected increase in DNA damage, but surprisingly no increase in cancer has been reported." DNA damage sounds like a potentially significant downside, but apparently with p21 inactivated, wounds would heal without scarring.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:27 PM on March 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Endless Ocean 2

I had no idea there was such a thing!
posted by Mister_A at 2:29 PM on March 23, 2010


I'm guessing that the lack of the p21 gene in higher animals confers an adaptive advantage in some way.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:41 PM on March 23, 2010


Big deal. I revert to an infantile state all the time.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:46 PM on March 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


"We are looking at a worldwide silent invasion," says Dr. Maria Miglietta of the Smithsonian Tropical Marine Institute.

Are you sure it's not mostly silent with some "scree!"-ing here and there?
posted by ignignokt at 2:51 PM on March 23, 2010


Im confused. Why are they only increasing in number now? Presumably they've always been able to regenerate. Is there some new environmental/human interaction effect going on?
posted by jpdoane at 2:56 PM on March 23, 2010


jpdoane, this might actually be a new mutation, or if it is really only induced by stress, their original environment may be impacted in such a way as to stress these little critters out, forcing them to regenerate.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:59 PM on March 23, 2010


I propose we grow a 50 foot tall lobster, and then unleash it on NYC to prevent nuclear war.

I'm not entirely sure, but I think this is the reverse plot of every Power Rangers episode ever.
posted by clearly at 3:01 PM on March 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


jellyfish X-men

cool
posted by jpdoane at 3:02 PM on March 23, 2010


I propose we grow a 50 foot tall lobster, and then unleash it on NYC to prevent nuclear wa eat it.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:03 PM on March 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


ops! this regenerative post may be killed :P

also fwiw...
We may grow old because we don't get cancer.

and btw an interesting point re: scarring
posted by kliuless at 3:04 PM on March 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or we could just go to the Red Lobster. Probably be cheaper.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:05 PM on March 23, 2010


Purely speaking for myself as an individual, I would like to extend a warm welcome to our new jellyfish overlords.
posted by vectr at 3:12 PM on March 23, 2010


So what happens to humans that have inactive p21?

Don't make me get all ZALGO on your ass.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:30 PM on March 23, 2010


If lobsters don't grow, why haven't any labs tried raising a lobster in a completely sterile environment with nutrition provided as needed to see how long it would last? Would it keep growing (I assume yes?)?

I assume you mean, If lobsters don't grow old. Anyway, Prof. Jelle Atema is doing just what you suggest at Boston University. His lobster is now about 15 pounds. Check back in 100 years to see how it's doing.

Here's a bit more on lobster longevity (quoted from NPR):

I imagine you know folks who are in their 80s, maybe in their 90s, who are sharp, lively and very active.

But here's the thing - if you were a lobster, and especially if you were a very old lobster, all your colleagues, or almost all of them, would be sharp as tacks. (Can lobsters be tacks?)

Because, as best scientists can tell, lobsters age so gracefully they show no measurable signs of aging: no loss of appetite, no change in metabolism, no loss of reproductive urge or ability, no decline in strength or health.

Lobsters, when they die, seem to die from external causes. They get fished by humans, eaten by seals, wasted by parasites, but they don't seem to die from within. Of course, no one really knows how the average lobster dies. There are no definitive studies.


The lobster secret, it seems, is ubiquitous telomerase expression:
posted by beagle at 3:33 PM on March 23, 2010


I for one etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.
posted by aihal at 3:33 PM on March 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Scientists say the hydrozoan jellyfish is the only known animal that can repeatedly turn back the hands of time

I anxiously await its scantily-clad appearance in a music video filmed on the deck of a battleship.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:33 PM on March 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


So, even when damaged, they can revert to eggs and then spawn more of the little suckers?

Looks like we have to nuke the entire site species from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:36 PM on March 23, 2010


Why are they only increasing in number now? Presumably they've always been able to regenerate. Is there some new environmental/human interaction effect going on?

Humans are fishing the ocean bare of the predators higher up the food chain, leaving species which formally had their numbers kept in check through being eaten to take over. Find out more here and here (and many others).
posted by hippybear at 3:44 PM on March 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hope no scientist figures out how to put that into us. Or else we will be screwed.
posted by NotSoSiniSter at 3:51 PM on March 23, 2010


ACK! formerly, not formally.
posted by hippybear at 4:00 PM on March 23, 2010


lobsters age so gracefully they show no measurable signs of aging: no loss of appetite, no change in metabolism, no loss of reproductive urge or ability, no decline in strength or health.

But do they get crabby?
posted by msalt at 4:15 PM on March 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Deliciously crabby.
posted by vectr at 4:17 PM on March 23, 2010


It has been argued that lobsters may exhibit negligible senescence and some scientists have claimed that they could effectively live indefinitely, barring injury, disease, capture, etc.

...and cooking pots.
posted by Skeptic at 4:22 PM on March 23, 2010


jpdoane: Im confused. Why are they only increasing in number now? Presumably they've always been able to regenerate. Is there some new environmental/human interaction effect going on?

It might be a combination of overfishing and us dumping fertilizer into the water. The fertilizer bumps jellyfish populations, and the fish that would normally eat them can't keep up. Normally, their population would explode with the extra food supply, but we're killing them so fast that many of them are being wiped out.
posted by Malor at 4:51 PM on March 23, 2010


Immortal? Tentacled? I don't like where this is going at all.
But Innsmouth is beautiful this time of year.
posted by coolguymichael at 5:44 PM on March 23, 2010


Lobsters have teeth in their stomachs? Teeth! In their stomachs! Destroy the 50-foot lobster before it eats us all, twice!
posted by steef at 6:20 PM on March 23, 2010


Jesus, don't they get bored?

No brain to get bored with.

Even Jimmy Buffett sees the advantage to that:

I'd like to be a jelly fish
'Cause jelly fish don't pay rent
They don't walk, they don't talk
With some Euro-trash accents
They're just simple protoplasm
Clear as cellophane
They ride the winds of fortune
Life without a brain

In one ear and out the other
Don't you get criss-crossed
I recommend you try a little
Mental floss

posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:09 PM on March 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have to say, I think Lobster Immortality is cooler. Sure, your body is constantly getting older (no going back to being a tiny lobster), but you also don't have to repeat the awkwardness of transitioning from a baby critter to an adult critter. Also, you get to become huge, which is cooler than becoming a baby or getting wrinkly.

I'm thinking about writing up my local zoos and aquariums about this lobster issue. If lobsters can really live indefinitely, we need thousands of tanks worldwide raising them just for kicks to see how big they can get. Sure, a few will screw up (infections, accidentally breaking/poisoning the tank, etc), but that's the point of having thousands of people run the experiment.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:38 PM on March 23, 2010


I must get myself some of that lobsters genetics before this mid-age horniness and drive starts to peter out from old age…
posted by five fresh fish at 9:24 PM on March 23, 2010


I must get myself some of that lobsters genetics before this mid-age horniness and drive starts to peter out from old age…
posted by five fresh fish


Heh
posted by davejay at 10:13 PM on March 23, 2010


Don't sturgeon sort of live on and on, too? At Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River they have a hatchery that grows them indefinitely. A few years back some crazy guy saw them, freaked out, jumped into the open air pond and stabbed one to death.
posted by msalt at 10:58 PM on March 23, 2010


In the past, man lived to die by man's hand. Skulls crushed.
Today, we live long enough to die by nature's hand. Coughing.
In the future, we will live long enough to die by man's hand again.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:29 PM on March 23, 2010


These findings may explain a lot about another ever-rejuvenating enigmatic being. Does he long for his maker, and dream of the one sweet end that she never gave him? Is he doomed to swirl endlessly in a stagnant pool befouled with the ragged remains of others of his ilk?
posted by buzzv at 12:03 AM on March 24, 2010


lobsters
posted by kliuless at 6:24 AM on March 24, 2010


Is there some new environmental/human interaction effect going on?

Malor : It might be a combination of overfishing and us dumping fertilizer into the water. The fertilizer bumps jellyfish populations, and the fish that would normally eat them can't keep up.

This is what I was thinking as well. We create a vacuum and so shouldn't be surprised when something fills it.

mccarty.tim : I propose we grow a 50 foot tall lobster, and then unleash it on NYC to prevent nuclear war.

Only after I get to ride it. Lobstrosity rodeo is going to be huge, and I want to be in from the beginning.

Bulgaroktonos : Endless Ocean 2

Hang on, there is a sequel? Crap. I'll have to hook the Wii back up.
posted by quin at 8:18 AM on March 24, 2010


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