August 14, 2010

The Immortal Jellyfish and the Jellyfish Invasion

Well this topic is a great bridge between the past posts of the infinite to a topic with a more biological and science based topic. The immortal jellyfish, Turritopsis Nutricula, has a potentially infinite lifespan because of a neat trick it has evolved. It has found the fountain of youth. National Geographic explains how the fountain is in the creatures to turn back the clock and actually reshape itself. National Geographic then gives a detailed account of the process described above. In a situation where the jellyfish encounters starvation, physical damage or another type of crisis.

"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."

In that process it shows that the jellyfish can create copies of itself, but the jellyfish can also reproduce normally with sperm and egg, it has two options for reproduction. There is a great chart of the process described above on Developmental Biology Online.

So the question inevitably comes up, 'Is there any implications for future human anti-aging?' Well the answer this far seems to be a universal no. The human fountain of youth still seems to be a far way off, unless your Ray Kurzweil.

This news comes on the heels of a bloom of other jellyfish stories in the recent past. Like the story of an army of billions of small jellyfish, Mauve Stingers, invading a salmon farm and killing 100 000 fish in Northern Ireland. While the previous article many not have gotten too in depth Spiegel Online goes a bit further as it noted that the Mauve Stinger can't really swim and generally goes where the ocean currents take it, and the fact that they made it all the way to Northern Ireland from their normal Mediterranean home is another sign of Global Warming. 

Japan's Nomura's Jellyfish can grow to 6.5 feet and 440 lbs and has become much more active recently.

A third intriguing jellyfish story has been developing in Japan over the past decade or so. The Nomura Jellyfish has become a blooming menace, and has caused problems not only in clogging fishing nets, but also poisoning the fish that are caught with the jellies.

The Nomura didn't used to be a problem because of the amount of time between blooms, every 40 years,  didn't cause a dramatic effect, but recently the blooms have had an accelerated pace. The increase has been dramatic, every year between 2002 and 2007 there was a bloom.   Nomura Jellyfish, like the Turritopsis Nutricula, have a strange breeding process and only breed when they are injured, so activities like the one shown above, or being caught in nets might be causing them to breed much more frequently then they have in the past. It has gotten to the point that a biological oceanographer at Hiroshima University, Shin-ichi Uye, stated that, 'Right now giant jellyfish outbreaks are like typhoons—they can't be controlled, but they can be predicted.'

Making the blooms worse are the amount of dead zones and the decline of sea turtles, the jellyfishes main predator. I guess the previous solution of just blowing up sea creatures doesn't solve everything. So while the fish seem to be floundering the jellies are taking over.

While the news stories generally portray a real sense of alarm about that is going on, there just isn't much that can  be done until more research takes place and their is a greater understanding about these strange creatures. Then even when we know more I still am not very hopeful for any real change, as the not much has been done to steam the tide of the decline in any other areas of our oceans.

Thanks for reading,
-the moral skeptic


  1. Just watched a documentary on this topic. The wind up put it down to (probably) pollution creating increasing dead zones in our oceans (as mentioned above) and the changing sea temperatures. If you combine this with increasing population and decreasing availability of sea food (ref the Japanese experience) this adds to my ever increasing list of concerns over human viability on our planet. Not concern over the plannet, That will survive in the long run, but will we?

  2. We should send empty oil tankers out there to vacuum suck them up and use them for bio fuel!