Turritopsis dohrnii is now officially known as the only creäture which can live forever. Scientists are trying to find how do Turritopsis Dohrnii live forever.
It turns out that once the adult form of the 4.5 mm-wide species Turritopsis dohrnii have reproduced, they don’t die but transform themselves back into their juvenile polyp state.
Their tentacles retract, their bodies shrink, and they sink to the ocean floor and start the cycle all over again. Among laboratory samples, all the adult Turritopsis observed regularly undergo this change. And not just once: they can do it over and over.
How do they do it? When a Dohrnii jellyfish gets exposed to shock. These marvelous creatures reverse their aging process. They slowly turn back into larvae, and are reborn again when the danger has passed. It is the only biological example of true immortality.
Turritopsis Dohrnii achieves this through a process that is quite remarkable. The cells of the larvae get assigned roles by a tiny strand of genetic material called MiRNA before maturing.
MiRNA decides which jobs a mature cell receives. When the jellyfish receives a shock. MiRNA begins converting the jellyfish cells back into larvae. Scientists are studying this to see if it could be used to reverse the aging process in other species.
Thus, the only known way they can die is if they get consumed by another fish or if a disease strikes the jelly. However, there are still many mysteries surrounding the turritopsis dohrnii. While the process of reverting from its adult-phase to a polyp gets observed several times, it hasn’t been observed yet in nature, only in laboratory environments.
The biggest danger to these immortal jellyfish comes from sea plankton, which eats them for survival. Dohrnii are hard to study because of their size and are hard to keep alive in captivity.
Today, only one scientist, Shin Kubota from Japan University, has managed to keep them alive. The Dohrnii jellyfish provides the only known method for a living being to cheat death and its secrets are not fully uncovered.
Turritopsis nutricula vs Turritopsis rubra vs Turritopsis dohrnii
There was a lot of confusion even inside the scientific community between the three types of turritopsis jellyfish: the dohrnii, the nutricula and the rubra. Simply put, the turritopsis genus is found in many parts of the world and it is not an easy task to differentiate between these tiny jellyfishes.
The nutricula was for a long time mistakenly the one referred to as the immortal jellyfish. While the jellyfish used in the lab observations was the turritopsis dohrnii, from the Mediterranean, where the dohrnii is found.
The nutricula is found in the Caribbean and North America and the cycle reversal was not in fact observed on the nutricula. That doesn’t mean that the nutricula isn’t biologically immortal but that it has not yet been observed and proven that. And finally the rubra is a turritopsis that is found next to New Zealand waters.
Content for this question contributed by Jeannie Barber, resident of Feeding Hills, Hampden County, Agawam, Massachusetts, USA