Will It Blend?

Fact: There’s a jellyfish which can survive being put in a blender.

It’s not the first time we talked about jellyfish being awesome (we already know they can live forever), but even more impressive is their ability to survive a battle with your average kitchen blender.

This impressive skill is held by a freshwater cousin of the jellyfish called a hydra. If you blend a hydra until it’s a pile of sludge and leave it floating at the bottom of a glass, you’ll see something you won’t believe. In a few hours, you’ll see fragments crawling towards each other and that sludge will actively take on a new shape. In a day or two, you’ll see mini sludge volcanoes forming. After 3 days, it will have re-organised itself back into a fully functional, healthy hydra.

How can these resilient little invertebrates survive being being put into a blender and literally pulped into mush? Hydras don’t have fully-fledged brains, but they do have special ‘command cells’ which can control the cells around them, acting like mini local brains. If a hydra gets damaged (usually when part of it gets eaten), these command cells signal to the cells around them to grow and repair the damage.

A blender does a lot of damage, but it’s blades are too big to destroy all the cells in a jellyfish – instead, it leaves behind small chunks of cells which are individually still alive but no longer attached to each other. If just a few individual command cells survive, they can direct and reorganise the surviving cells back into position, re-growing a healthy, if slightly slimmed-down, jellyfish once more. If you spot an edgy Shoreditch bar offering jellyfish smoothies as the super-food of the future, steer clear – once you get one down your throat it might just resurrect itself in your stomach.

‘Another one of Mr Shaunak’s Little Bites of Science’
Image under Creative Commons license

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