|Photo: Peter Schuchert|
So, how does the tiny (0.18”) immortal jellyfish manage to live on? The answer is a process called transdifferentiation. After the immortal jellyfish spawns as an adult, it uses this process to transform its cells back into that of an immature polyp, dropping to the sea floor and starting its lifecycle all over again. Some animals such as salamanders can use this process to re-grow limbs, but the immortal jellyfish is the only known animal that can apply transdifferentiation to its whole body, meaning that instead of dying, it becomes a newborn again; and it can repeat this process over and over.
Because these jellyfish are immortal, their population is exploding. Once native only to Caribbean waters, they can now be found in oceans all over the world.