Respect for the Immortal

Since the moment we were brought upon this land, we have all thought about at one point or another of immortality. We have searched through various disciplines for answers for a life after the one we exist in, and any sign of a long life, through literature and history. And although we come across myths, stories and legends how many of us stop to think if we already are? And what of respect for the seemingly immortal? Would we treat them as equals? Would we fear them? Would we protect them?

I am currently working on a page that explores this concept more in depth, but in the meantime I would like to share some work I have come across.  Some examples of longevity, immortality as far as we know are so exceptional, I myself feel as though I stumbled upon a sea so few have traveled. And those who have, have kept these discoveries secret, and in some cases  the location of these creatures still are, as immortality does not equate invincibility.  Given the variety of threats presented today to the natural world, it puts my heart at ease to know that some of these species are protected, and I hope that one day all become protected, as many of them are unique and fragile. In my mind these species must hold the key to immortality in the physical sense, but also serve as an example of how we have always been.

And what of invincibility? There are some creatures that have been discovered, tested, and proven that we as a species are so vulnerable, that our views of what life may lay beyond our planet seems almost minute in scope and scale. I now have a different outlook on what may exist on alien planets, and I have a greater understanding that space agencies around the world take these species into consideration when looking for new life on alien planets.  Some of these species can adhere to such extreme climates, it makes me feel at ease that if we ever became extinct from a natural disaster or from our own undoing, that nature will survive beyond our footprint.

The Pando Tree (Trembling Giant) is a clonal colony that is estimated to be 80,000 or more years old. What may seem like a forest is actually a single organism as it has a single massive root system stemming multiple ‘trees’ as identical genetic markers show that all the DNA is one and the same. It is located in the Fishlake National Forest in Utah.

The waterbear is no larger than 1.5 mm. It seems almost too small to be considered important. However, it can survive environments beyond natural earth habitats. It has proven to survive in extreme temperatures (-273 °C to 151 °C), can survive the vacuum of space, and pressures 6 times greater than that of the deepest part of the ocean. It can also survive dehydration for almost 10 years and petrify itself from 85% to 3% water of body composition. It can survive ridiculously high doses of radiation and some can survive exposure to solar radiation in space while still being able to produce viable offspring afterwords.

Now here’s a thought to ponder about. The one truly immortal species which has been discovered is a hydrozoan, mistaken as a jellyfish, with the name of ‘Immortal Jellyfish’ (Turritopsis Nutricula).  It has the ability to revert back to a youthful state after reaching and old age. Scientists have conducted studies on this creature and believe it can do this an infinite amount of times. Not only can they revert back to childhood, but they then produce genetic copies of themselves once they are young again; or in other words, clones of themselves.  The thought to ponder is this, human intervention in nature has caused us to produce an excess of CO2 emissions. In turn the excess of CO2 is absorbed by the oceans of the world. This in effect causes the oceans to become acidic which in turn kills its natural inhabitants.  Some species however, thrive in these acidic oceans; one of them being the immortal jellyfish.  Now, they are beginning to take over oceans at an unprecedented rate.  Has nature produced this type of creature, one that can live potentially forever to combat a dying oceanic world, to last until the oceans revert back to a less acidic state? Will new creatures begin to thrive and eat these immortal creatures in the distant future?

Another thought, is our planet doing this by accident? Presuming earth is a living organism in whole, may it be conscious of what it is doing; what humanity is doing to it? Or is earth simply automated; built to survive no matter what?  I’d like to think of the immortal hydrozoan as earth’s anti body; or maybe an allergic reaction?