Lonely Jellyfish Produces Hundreds of Clones of Itself

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A Cassiopea jellyfish floating in blue waters.

tatogra / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

When you can clone yourself, you never have to be alone -- at least that's what marine biologists at Australia's Townsville aquarium are discovering. Recently, an injured Cassiopea jellyfish that had been kept alone in its own tank was found to be suddenly and inexplicably in the company of some 200 youngsters. But as nice as it must be for the lonely jellyfish to have others around, that's not even quite the case; biologists suspect that each one of the tiny new jellyfish is actually a clone of the original. As with most cases of seemingly immaculate conception, scientists are a bit perplexed with the jellyfish's mysterious birthing. There is a chance, they say, that the sudden mother to hundreds of baby jellyfish had in fact had a brief tryst some time earlier while no one was watching, but that it wasn't likely. The most plausible explanation, it seems, is one that's far more remarkable.

"Jellyfish clone very easily. When some jellyfish are cut in half, you get two jellyfish," aquarist Krystal Huff tells News.com.au. "Since the parent jellyfish was injured, it had damaged tissue cells which could have grown into other jellyfish."

In other words, the bits of material which sloughed off the parent jellyfish actually regenerated hundreds of little copies of the original. But sadly, the big jellyfish ultimately died from its injuries -- leaving the multitude of tiny clones of itself to fend for themselves (or giving the parent another 200 or so chances at life, depending on how you look at it.)

Either way, nature's power to persevere is nothing short of amazing.