The Mysteries of Evolution: 5. The Immortal Jellyfish

Is it a paradox or just a fluke of nature? How could a tiny jellyfish be immortal?
Here are some quick facts about the transdifferentiation process that seem to make jellyfish immortal:

My question is: if tiny jellyfish can technically be immortal, what stops us from being immortal or being able live forever or at least much longer than 70-85 years ?

If the immortal jellyfish evolved to have the ability to live forever, will we be able to as well?

Or is it possible that we humans already had the ability to live indefinitely and somehow lost it?

Many experts working  in the field of anti-aging seem to agree that our bodies should technically continue to live forever…and yet they don’t really know why that doesn’t happen… For unknown reasons… scientist still don’t really know why we age and die while there are many contradictory theories…

Why the tiny jellyfish evolved the ability to be immortal and we didn’t, even though many scientists think we should be able to be immortal or at least have the ability to rejuvenate our bodies forever?

Well, this is just one the many mysteries of evolution…but this one is more puzzling than the previous 4  I have posted…at least to me…

I’ve written the above a while back… However, in the view of the many tragic events in the world recently, with so many innocent people dead; in Spain, Finland, Charlottesville  and many other to come…unfortunately… I have been reflecting on two main issues; death and the possibility of living again (resurrection) in the view of just God who allows evil…

While these issues are probably separate issues, worth separate OP for each, my focus was on the ability of the lowly jellyfish being able to live indefinitely and human’s relatively short lifespan without the ability to revert youthful body…

 

 

 

110 thoughts on “The Mysteries of Evolution: 5. The Immortal Jellyfish

  1. Neil Rickert: The comment number changes when you block users. So what is #36 for you is unlikely to #36 for me.

    I wonder who wrote the following:

    If you open the site in a private browsing window in your browser, then you will see posts by people you are ignoring.

  2. Mung: I wonder who wrote the following:

    If you open the site in a private browsing window in your browser, then you will see posts by people you are ignoring.

    Using the comment numbers from private browsing would be more useful, provided that it is mentioned that the numbers are from private browsing.

  3. Acartia: So, correct me if I am wrong, God made all life forms on earth mortal, involving enduring pain for many prior to this death, just because Adam and Eve ate a piece of fruit that they weren’t supposed to? And you argue that this is a God worthy of worship? By that argument, we should worship the Nazi’s.

    God made all living creatures immortal.
    Adam rebelled in hatred against God, possibly hoping to destroy him after gaining Godlike powers, and so mankind was to die. or rather mankind is conceive in this rebellion and right away evil.
    Nature/universe also decays. Death is only slowed down to allow mankind a chance for salvation. Our death is proof to us there is a problem and it needs fixing.
    Thats why folks are right that if there was a God THEN why death?
    Excellent point.
    Death and suffering etc is impossible where there is a God with power and a nice guy.
    I wouldn’t let people die/suffer. however evil people is another issue. yet this makes a problem. What is evil? what is evil to a perfect God?

  4. Heh, I used to do research on the evolution of ageing during my PhD. The currently accepted explanation (mutation accumulation) was suggested by sir Peter Medawar in 1952, and depends on the decrease of the power of purifying selection with increasing age. Here is how it works:

    Imagine a birth cohort of potentially immortal organisms. They experience no senescent ageing as we do, but they will die nonetheless as they are subject to predation, disease, accidents etc. etc. This is called mortality from extrinsic causes (as opposed to senescence, which is intrinsic). So the proportion of surviving individuals will fall with age until no members are left alive.

    Now imagine a mutation is introduced into this population. Let’s say it’s a dominant lethal, although it works for any mutation with negative impact on survival or reproduction. The important insight here is that the fate of this mutation depends critically on the age at which it expresses:
    – If the lethal expresses early in life, before any individual has reproduced, it is instantly removed from the population as its bearer dies.
    – However, if the lethal expresses later in life, say when half of the birth cohort is already dead, then the mutation has probably already been passed on to the next generation. It may linger a while before it is purged by purifying selection.
    – Finally, if the lethal expresses at an age when all members of the cohort are already dead from extrinsic causes, it is effectively neutral. It doesn’t matter one iota whether an individual carries the mutation or not, so the fate of the mutation is decided by genetic drift.

    Since mutations are continuously occurring, populations tend to accumulate mutations with late acting deleterious effects. But this is invisible until somehow the population is released from extrinsic mortality, as has happened to humans. This is the evolutionary explanation of why we age.

    Some people have proposed some variations of the theory (e.g. antagonistic pleiotropy by George Williams), but all rely on the decrease of the power of purifying selection with age.

    End of lesson. I used to teach this stuff. Does it show?

  5. Corneel:
    Heh, I used to do research on the evolution of ageing during my PhD. The currently accepted explanation (mutation accumulation) was suggested by sir Peter Medawar in 1952, and depends on the decrease of the power of purifying selection with increasing age. Here is how it works:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but are you suggesting that aging, and the consequence of it, death, are the inventions of evolution?

  6. J-Mac: Correct me if I’m wrong, but are you suggesting that aging, and the consequence of it, death, are the inventions of evolution?

    No, death is not an invention of evolution since all living beings will die eventually. “Nature red in tooth and claw” and all that. But the rate at which organisms age is definitely subject to evolutionary forces.

  7. Corneel: No, death is not an invention of evolution since all living beings will die eventually. “Nature red in tooth and claw” and all that. But the rate at which organisms age is definitely subject to evolutionary forces.

    Jellyfish seemed to have escaped that destiny though…that we know about…there may be more organisms we don’t know about…;-)

  8. J-Mac: Jellyfish seemed to have escaped that destiny though…that we know about…there may be more organisms we don’t know about…;-)

    Sure. Cases of very slow or negligible ageing are found from time to time. Fascinating stuff.

  9. It’s not as if these jellyfish aren’t aging or can’t be killed, though. It’s rather that they seem to have the ability to revert to a juvenile stage after going through adulthood.

  10. Corneel,

    There are organisms that can regenerate lost body parts of limbs…
    Humans can regenerate their lost ribs…maybe even the whole skeleton..

    Bacterium called deinococcus radiodurans can survive cold, dehydration, vacuum, and acid…after being exposed to extreme radiation for a long time it can repair its genome and revert back to life…

  11. J-Mac: Jellyfish seemedto have escaped that destiny though…that we know about…there may be more organisms we don’t know about…;-)

    Not unless they learn to build little spaceships.

  12. J-Mac,

    Or is it possible that we humans already had the ability to live indefinitely and somehow lost it?

    Your “plan” to claim that immortal jellyfish exist therefore Noah could have lived for 950+ years is transparently obvious. How long before you were going to bring this up?

  13. OMagain:
    J-Mac,

    Your “plan” to claim that immortal jellyfish exist therefore Noah could have lived for 950+ years is transparently obvious. How long before you were going to bring this up?

    I’ve never had it in my mind…but thanks!

  14. OMagain:
    Sarcasm is all your trash OP’s deserve J-Mac. Got a problem with that? Write better OPs.

    Well… all I can do is assure you that I’m working on better OPs…many of them… Get ready!
    You can trash all of them… with scientific, experimental evidence…which you should definitely have if you believe in evolution…and I don’t mean to be sarcastic…because what’s the point believing it, if it doesn’t withstand sarcastic comments from ID proponents?

  15. J-Mac: what’s the point believing it, if it doesn’t withstand sarcastic comments from ID proponents?

    That makes even less sense that what you usually say.

  16. J-Mac: You can trash all of them… with scientific, experimental evidence…which you should definitely have if you believe in evolution…a

    If you think ID is correct, it does not require the same kind of support?

  17. newton: If you think ID is correct, it does not require the samekind of support?

    Again, there is nothing wrong with some sarcasm…in my view… I use it all the time with my friends, my kids and on this blog…etc.

    The problem is when it is induced by anger, motivated by hatred, when it leads to name-calling, racists comments, bullying and unfounded accusations…

    There has to be a balance between healthy and unhealthy sarcasm IMV…

  18. newton: If you think ID is correct, it does not require the samekind of support?

    I’m not sure I understand your question correctly but the way I see it, ID doesn’t need any kind of support…at least not from me…While I probably do it anyway…
    I tend to annoy some religious people though…unintentionally…

    ID proponents’ claims are probably wrong from time to time…But, that’s not the point…

    The point is; to use one of their common statements, all ID does, or should do, is to show that the origin of life-systems can be better explained by ID rather than unintelligent, random, mindless processes… This doesn’t necessary mean that there is no randomness in the development of life-systems…There is a lot of randomness on the subatomic level…so why would biological systems be any different?

    So, to make long point short, ID doesn’t have to explain how a life-system was designed or created…That’s not what they do..(I try…with my obsession with quantum mechanics, dark energy, spacetime etc…)

    All ID has been doing is that showing that current explanations of the development of many life-systems cannot be explained by Darwinian or other mechanism that exclude ID. That’s it!

    As I have already pointed it out, and I will in my future OPs, that no current evolutionary mechanisms that involve random, mindless processes, including natural selection, can explain the origin of many life-systems that reach well beyond irreducible complexity…as I already eluded to it regarding the interdependency and integration of life-systems in the origins of the eye…

    If ID ever need my support, and I don’t see any conflict of interests, (as I’m against teaching ID in schools) I will, but I doubt they will ever need someone like me… 😉

  19. J-Mac: So, to make long point short, ID doesn’t have to explain how a life-system was designed or created…That’s not what they do..(I try…with my obsession with quantum mechanics, dark energy, spacetime etc…)

    Unless you want to make it science, instead of just made-up shit.

    But then it really is just made-up shit, which is why IDists never try to find actual evidence in favor of design.

    Glen Davidson

  20. J-Mac: I’m not sure I understand your question correctly but the way I see it, ID doesn’t need any kind of support…

    That’s right. ID is the default. And people have to be indoctrinated with silly and irrational arguments to believe otherwise.

  21. J-Mac: Again, there is nothing wrong with some sarcasm…in my view… I use it all the time with my friends, my kids and on this blog…etc.

    Do they ever think you’re being sarcastic when you aren’t? Perhaps you took that ” you ” as being an attack, rather than the generic you. Since ID is often seen as a default position by some / most its proponents I was curious that since you considered the need scientific ,experimental data for evolution whether the standard was the same for design. Mung says no. Seems a reasonable question with no animus

    The problem is when it is induced by anger, motivated by hatred, when it leads toname-calling, racists comments, bullying and unfounded accusations…

    Sure and I hate when the ice cream melts on the way home. Neither have anything to do with my question.

    There has to be a balance between healthy and unhealthy sarcasm IMV…

    Sarcasm in a biker bar is the unhealthy kind.

  22. Mung: That’s right. ID is the default. And people have to be indoctrinated with silly and irrational arguments to believe otherwise.

    Two things ,something has to be a position before it can be a default position and is the reason design is the default just because it is?

  23. I always thought the default position was the missionary. Looks like I’ve been missing out big time
    I’ll see if I can get the missus to try Goddy style

  24. Again di these Jellyfish actually not age/ Are there some thousands of years old or a option?
    Reverting back, they say it happens, to a juvenial stage does not mean they are not aging and decaying.
    Its just a way of escaping problems.
    Hmmm something funny about this jelly!

  25. J-Mac: The point is; to use one of their common statements, all ID does, or should do, is to show that the origin of life-systems can be better explained by ID rather than unintelligent, random, mindless processes

    Except it does not do that and never has. Unless, of course, you think that simply saying “it was designed” is equivalent to actual scientific research: https://www.nature.com/subjects/origin-of-life

    Feel free to point me to where ID explains the origin of life. As I likely know more about you then ID and I’ve never seen where it does that.

  26. J-Mac: As I have already pointed it out, and I will in my future OPs, that no current evolutionary mechanisms that involve random, mindless processes, including natural selection, can explain the origin of many life-systems that reach well beyond irreducible complexity…as I already eluded to it regarding the interdependency and integration of life-systems in the origins of the eye…

    Pointing out something is different from demonstrating it scientifically. If you had something of significance to say you’d be saying it in the only arena that matters, not a blog.

    Feel free to keep on pointing out what can’t explain the eye. As my recent OP noted, ID has literally nothing to say on the actual orgin of the eye beyond evolution did not do it.

    We already know that your position is that evolution did not do it. Do you by any chance have an OP demonstrating, with evidence, how ID did do it? If not, then just don’t bother.

  27. J-Mac: ID proponents’ claims are probably wrong from time to time…But, that’s not the point…

    Can you give me a few examples of ID proponents claims that are correct and how you determined that? If not, what does that tell you?

  28. J-Mac,

    All ID has been doing is that showing that current explanations of the development of many life-systems cannot be explained by Darwinian or other mechanism that exclude ID. That’s it!

    Could you show me how by adding ID the problem of the origin of life is solved? What specific problem is it that requires ID to be solved?

  29. This is very interesting and all, but I don’t really perceive how this is a mystery of evolution.

    scientist still don’t really know why we age and die while there are many contradictory theories…

    Scientists haven’t elucidated all of the proximate reasons (molecular mechanisms) for senescent ageing in humans but the ultimate (evolutionary) reasons are pretty well established; The power of purifying selection decreases with increasing age.

    Why the tiny jellyfish evolved the ability to be immortal and we didn’t, even though many scientists think we should be able to be immortal or at least have the ability to rejuvenate our bodies forever?

    Jellyfish of this species seem to have acquired some mechanism of reversed ontogeny, which enables them to change the differentiated state of certain cells of the medusa stage. Not likely to be applicable in humans, as human cells don’t have this potential.

  30. Bacteria are ‘immortal’. So are eukaryotic germ lines. What we fret over is the lack of persistence of multicellular somas. But, those somas are simply shells. They protect, nurture and amplify the germ line, release gametes in profusion, then wither and die. We obviously have a vested interest in this, and find it grossly unfair. But there is no particular reason why a soma should persist indefinitely, in evolutionary terms. The longer it goes on, the more the alliance of diploidy starts to break down.

  31. Allan Miller:
    Bacteria are ‘immortal’. So are eukaryotic germ lines. What we fret over is the lack of persistence of multicellular somas. But, those somas are simply shells. They protect, nurture and amplify the germ line, release gametes in profusion, then wither and die. We obviously have a vested interest in this, and find it grossly unfair. But there is no particular reason why a soma should persist indefinitely, in evolutionary terms. The longer it goes on, the more the alliance of diploidy starts to break down.

    It makes one wonder why the ” bacterial immortality” wasn’t selected for in the process of evolution… as it definitely would have been a fitness advantage to the organism…or whatever the population genetics claims…

  32. J-Mac,

    It makes one wonder why the ” bacterial immortality” wasn’t selected for in the process of evolution… as it definitely would have been a fitness advantage to the organism…or whatever the population genetics claims…

    ‘Bacterial immortality’ is selected for in the germ line of multicellular organisms. That lineage of cells is immortal. It’s only somatic lines that aren’t, for mechanistic reasons. You are very vague about why it would be a fitness advantage to have immortal somas. It would be nice, but that’s not the same thing.

  33. Corneel:
    This is very interesting and all, but I don’t really perceive how this is a mystery of evolution.

    Scientists haven’t elucidated all of the proximate reasons (molecular mechanisms) for senescent ageing in humans but the ultimate (evolutionary) reasons are pretty well established; The power of purifying selection decreases with increasing age.

    Jellyfish of this species seem to have acquired some mechanism of reversed ontogeny, which enables them to change the differentiated state of certain cells of the medusa stage. Not likely to be applicable in humans, as human cells don’t have this potential.

    Jellyfish of this species seem to have acquired some mechanism of reversed ontogeny

    Yeah…but what’s the mechanism? How did it evolve in one species and not in other species of jellyfish? It must be another of the mysteries of evolution…(sarcasm withheld;-)

  34. J-Mac: It makes one wonder why the ” bacterial immortality” wasn’t selected for in the process of evolution… as it definitely would have been a fitness advantage to the organism…or whatever the population genetics claims…

    You reveal a Byers-like (in)ability to understand

    By all means, continue to teach us your uninformed dreck.

    Glen Davidson

  35. J-Mac: It makes one wonder why the ” bacterial immortality” wasn’t selected for in the process of evolution… as it definitely would have been a fitness advantage to the organism…or whatever the population genetics claims…

    It wasn’t selected for because in natural conditions most organisms do not die of old age, but meet their untimely demise by predation, disease, etc. Hence there is no evolutionary benefit of being potentially immortal. Natural selection is blind to any genetic variants that affect survival or reproduction at late age.

  36. Pointing out something is different from demonstrating it scientifically. If you had something of significance to say you’d be saying it in the only arena that matters, not a blog.

    Feel free to keep on pointing out what can’t explain the eye. As my recent OP noted, ID has literally nothing to say on the actual orgin of the eye beyond evolution did not do it.

    We already know that your position is that evolution did not do it. Do you by any chance have an OP demonstrating, with evidence, how ID did do it? If not, then just don’t bother.

    This is the comment I made regarding the ID eye thingy on weasel OP…You either missed it or failed to answer…

    “OMagain: Heh. Seems to me if I want to know what evolution can’t do there are many people I can ask. But if I want to know what ID can do nobody seems to know.

    The eye, like a human eye, is a part of ocular system that consists of the eye and its central visual system… Light images from the outside, pass through the central visual system (cornea, the lens, and fluids) to land upon the retina. The retina then generates the signals passed by the optic nerve to the brain and interpreted as vision..

    This further proves that the eye could not have evolved as a separate organ, as all systems needed to be there at the same time for the integration of all system to function…

    Yeah, you can attached light-sensitive cells to the olfactory neurotransmitters and make a blind worm respond to light and determine whether the worm liked light or disliked light, but that is not the same thing as signals passing by the optic nerve to the brain and interpreted as vision…

    The “simplest of cells” requires a multitude of functioning components not only to be surrounded by cell membrane, but their presence at the same time for the cell to remain alive and functional…

    One or two are missing, or outside of the cell membrane and goodbye… The cell dies…We talking about keeping a living cell alive and not the evolution of it into functioning cell…

    The creation of the eye by ID/God required not only the presence of ALL functional systems at the same time…
    It required the blueprint of all systems and the integration of them into functional body at the same time by a process beyond biology…

    The eye and the supportive systems would require the assembly process on the subatomic level.. the level quantum mechanics operates on…”

  37. J-Mac: Yeah…but what’s the mechanism? How did it evolve in one species and not in other species of jellyfish? It must be another of the mysteries of evolution…(sarcasm withheld;-)

    I don’t think that has been explored yet, but given that the medusa is the sexual, dispersing stage and the polyp the asexual, sessile stage, my gut feeling is that the effect on longevity is a secondary result from selection on the ability to disperse and colonize in this species.

  38. Corneel: I don’t think that has been explored yet, but given that the medusa is the sexual, dispersing stage and the polyp the asexual, sessile stage, my gut feeling is that the effect on longevity is a secondary result from selection on the ability to disperse and colonize in this species.

    Interesting…so why would the longevity be the secondary result of selection and why only in one species? Should there be at least some intermittent evolutionary changes related to longevity and the process of transdifferentiation in other species of the jellyfish?

Leave a Reply