Turritopsis Dohrnii A Tale of Immortality

Sometimes I stumble across the most amazing things while doing research for my novels. Most often I  prepare well in advance and use all sorts of references including interviews and personal experiences such as the time I traveled on a tall ship to write some sailing scenes for Rubies and Robbers. Another enjoyable research project was watching a traditional Mongolian yurt be built by some friends of mine. But there are times when some research is last minute, or needs to be done online in the midst of writing. So it was the other evening.

In my tongue-in-cheek vampire romance I’m working on I had to help one of my characters find the secret to immortality. Not because she wanted to become immortal. She already was. She’d been bitten by a vampire. On the contrary she is seeking ways to reverse the curse, so to speak and is experimenting with different potions and spells to make herself human again. What potion she should use was the topic of my Google search. I found one simple recipe to undo the curse of vampireism though I’m not sure if I’ll use it in the story as it was an odd sort of remedy and didn’t really fit for what I needed.  I thought perhaps if I found ways to become immortal I might be able to have my character come up with some solution to reverse that. Again, nothing was very clear aside from eating gold which didn’t work out very well for the poor people who tried that and I’m not sure how I could reverse the gold eating. It wouldn’t fit.

Turritopsis rubra - Commonly confused with immortal jellyfish (c) Photo Credit: Peter Schuchert/The Hydrozoa Directory
Turritopsis rubra – Commonly confused with immortal jellyfish
(c) Photo Credit: Peter Schuchert/The Hydrozoa Directory

By this time I was sidetracked by the wiles of the Internet, which brings me to our topic. In all the search for immortality that humans have done, in Greek, Roman and Norse mythology, the fountain of youth, science (there’s actually a scientist that believes he’ll have the final clue in 25 years) there is only one success story.

Where else but in nature lies the key?

There is a jelly fish that can live forever (if it doesn’t get eaten or killed or washed up on a beach somewhere.)

Seriously. Some of you SF buffs probably already know this. I did not. The Turritopsis dohrnii is the only immortal creature alive and the process that it takes to stay that way is interesting indeed, and would make for a good twist in a SF story.

You see, the normal life cycle that we all experience and know so well is to be born, mature, reproduce, and die. People, animals, plants all know the routine. Except for this one jelly fish.

The Turritopsis dohrnii gets to the reproduction stage just like we all do. But instead of dying, it just well…doesn’t. It transforms itself back into its juvenile polyp state. Its tentacles retract,its body shrinks, and the immortal jelly fish sinks to the ocean floor and starts the cycle all over again. It can live forever.

Amazing the mileage we travel to get to somewhere we aren’t going.



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