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Moon jellyfish can age backwards and regenerate body parts

The moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita) is translucent. The jelly measures between 25–40 centimeters (or 10–16 inches) in diameter, and it has four, clearly visible, horseshoe-shaped gonads (resembling a four-leaf clover.) The jelly feeds on marine creatures like plankton by catching them with its tentacles and pulling the food source up to its mouth. The jelly is not capable of much independent motion, drifting instead through ocean currents. Species of Aurelia are found in the Atlantic Ocean, the Arctic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.

An in-depth study of the jelly has been made by researchers at Xiamen University, in China. Led by Jinru He the researchers have pinpointed a number of interesting characteristics relating to the moon jellyfish.

The finding of regeneration was discovered when Dr. He monitored a moon jellyfish for 18 months. At the end of this time, the jellyfish “died.” At this point, Dr. He placed the jellyfish back into a different tank of freshly collected marine water. He then waited.

Three months later, a sea anemone-like polyp rose up from the seemingly dead jellyfish, and in time, a new jellyfish formed. This was the first time, according to National Geographic, this had been observed. At this point, researchers are unclear if this is reverse aging or some form of regeneration.

Dr. He also came across something else of interest. He noticed when jellyfish become injured or over-fed, Miniature polyps were sometimes produced, which led to the formation of new jellies.

The new study has been published in the journal PLOS One. The paper is titled “Life Cycle Reversal in Aurelia sp.1 (Cnidaria, Scyphozoa).”

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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