The worldwide jellyfish-threat trouser state was officially raised from "damp" to "brown" last week, as reports emerged of a dreadful new oceanic menace: that of immortal rebirthing ocean-prowler hydrozoan clone swarms, described by top jelly boffins as "silent invaders".
Joining such well-known scourges as the famous quarter-ton "fridge sized" alpha jellies which routinely choke the Sea of Japan and the deadly peanut-esque Killer Jellybabies of Australia comes the frightful Turritopsis Dohrnii. According to National Geographic News, the appalling abilities of this terrible biological invasion were first flagged up - rather as one might expect - by a "recent study" in the specialist, splendidly-named journal Biological Invasions*. The tale has also struck a chord with our colleagues of the treepulp'n'ink media.
Actually the Biological Invasions paper was published online seven months ago, but no matter. This is a by-god immortal jellyfish here: the people need to be told even if we all missed it the first time.
First up, yes, the thing doesn't die unless it feels like it. According to scientist Maria Pia Miglietta and Harilaos Lessios of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, T dohrnii is just about impossible to kill. In the face of starvation, physical attack or "other crisis", it shapeshifts itself into "a bloblike cyst" from which it can then be reborn in a quite literally stomach-churning process.
According to National Geographic:
The jellyfish's cells are often completely transformed in the process. Muscle cells can become nerve cells or even sperm or eggs.
It would be nice to think that silver bullets, garlic or somesuch might offer an effective means of settling the wobbling morph-monsters, but no such specific is reported.
And that's not all. The reborn, undying gelatinous blob-cyst monsters can also "spawn" hundreds of genetically identical clones of themselves, each of which is also immortal and able to replicate itself at will using its own former guts, muscles or whatnot, transformed for the nonce into a thicket of supplementary genitalia.
In fact the disgusting Turritopsian slime hordes exhibit all the qualities one would expect in a hideous notional composite made up of equal parts jellyfish, vampire, lycanthrope, clone stormtrooper assassin and Dr Who/Dorian Gray/Benjamin Button/etc. Not only that, they are also freeloading hitchhiker degenerates, who have spread to conquer all the oceans of the world by riding undetected in the bilgewater of human shipping.
Fortunately the Turritopsians are only a big as a fingernail when fully grown, so there is presumably some chance that when they finally make their move to wipe out humanity they will all be eaten by frogs or something. ®
*Suggested companion titles: Pestilence Quarterly, the Unfortunate Occurrence Review and Which Disaster? magazine.