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蕴藏生命永不终结秘密的水母

更新时间:2019/4/24 21:28:15 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The jellyfish that never dies
蕴藏生命永不终结秘密的水母

Humans have always been fascinated by the idea of cheating death.

人类总是会对欺骗死亡的长生不老想法很感兴趣。

We’ve looked to everything from religion, the planets, cryogenics and even the mythical fountain of youth. While we were searching the heavens, science and all the corners of the Earth, the secret of immortality may have been floating in the ocean this whole time. In the form of a jellyfish.

为了寻求永生的秘密,人类穷尽了无数方法,从宗教到外太空的行星,再到低温物理学,甚至探求神话里的青春之泉,但都一无所获。或许当我们从天空、科学和地球的天涯海角寻找不朽之道时,长生不老的秘密可能一直便漂浮在海洋中,以水母的形式出现。

When we think of a jellyfish, what most of us is picturing is the “Medusa stage”, the second stage of jellyfish life. They spend this part of their lives as opaque drifting balloons with trailing tentacles.

当我们想到水母时,我们大多数人脑海中所出现的都是水母生命的第二阶段,即“水母体阶段”。在这个阶段,水母呈现出如不透明的漂流气球形态,还带随着触手。

Jellyfish start their lives as larva, tiny cigar shaped creatures that spiral through the water, looking for a rock or something handy to attach itself to. Once firmly in place, the larva metamorphoses into a polyp, rather like a tiny sea anemone. Colonies of these polyps are created as the polyp clones itself which means a colony can cover an entire boat dock in a matter of days. Some types of polyp form huge shrub-like bushes. When the conditions are right, these polyps bloom in vast numbers and when they bloom, what buds from the polyp are baby jellyfish.

水母的生命是从幼虫开始的。这种微小的雪茄烟形状的生物在水中盘旋,不断寻找一块石头或一些方便自己附着的东西。一旦附着到坚实的东西表面,水母幼虫就会变态为一只水螅体,而此时的长相就像一只小小的海葵。这些水螅体的群体是以水螅体无性自我繁殖,即克隆形式产生的,这意味着一个水螅体群体可以在几天内覆盖整个船坞。一些种类的水螅体会形成巨大的灌木型丛带。当条件合适的时候,这些水螅体会大量开花,当它们开花的时候,从水螅体中长出的花蕾便是小水母。

If the start of jellyfish life wasn’t extraordinary enough, its death is where things get really exciting. When the medusa the immortal jellyfish (Turritopsis dohrnii) dies, it sinks to the ocean floor and begins to decay. Amazingly, its cells then reaggregate, not into a new medusa, but into polyps, and from these polyps emerge new jellyfish. The jellyfish has skipped to an earlier life stage to begin again.

如果说水母的生命开端还不够奇特非凡,那它的死亡才真正让人兴奋不已。当灯塔水母(Turritopsis dohrnii)即我们所说的不朽水母的水母体死亡时,会下沉到海底并开始腐烂。令人惊奇的是,它的细胞随后会重新聚集,不是变成新的水母,而是变成水螅体,然后从这些水螅体中又会产生新的水母。这时水母回到其生命的第一个阶段,重新开始它的生命循环。

“This was a real mind blower for all of us,” says Dr Lisa-ann Gershwin, a jellyfish researcher based in Tasmania and director of the Marine Stinger Advisory Service. “It's one of the most amazing discoveries of our time.”

塔斯马尼亚的水母研究员以及海洋毒刺咨询服务主任的格什温博士(Lisa-ann Gershwin)说,“这个发现对我们所有人来说都是震撼且不可思议的,这可以说是我们这个时代最惊人的发现之一。”

It’s not just the immortal jellyfish that can rise from its own ashes. In 2011, a marine biology student in China kept a moon jellyfish (aurelia aurita) in a tank. When it died, he kept the body in another tank. Three months later, a new tiny polyp was growing out the top of the moon jellyfish. This regeneration process has now been found in around five species of jellyfish.

不仅是不朽水母能从自己的遗骸中重新获得生命,甚至别的类型的水母也有“不朽”的特质。2011年,中国一名海洋生物专业的学生把一只海月水母(Aurelia aurita)放在一个水槽里生活,在它死后,他把水母尸体放在另一个水槽里。三个月后,一种新的小水螅体从已死亡的海月水母顶端生长出来。这种再生过程现已在大约五种水母中发现。

So aside from eternal life, what’s the benefit for the jellyfish itself? Why do it? Well, it means when it becomes weakened either by age or illness, or it faces danger, it can call up its incredible survival mechanism and regenerate.

因此,除了永恒的生命,这种再生过程对水母这个物种本身有什么好处呢?为什么它们要这么做?不少人认为,这个再生过程意味着,当水母因年龄或疾病而变得虚弱,或面临危险时,它就可以使用其难以置信的再生机制重获新生。

Once the process begins, the bell of the jellyfish (the generally rounder “parachute” part at the top) and its tentacles begin to deteriorate. It turns back into a polyp, attaches itself to a surface and begins to grow into a jellyfish all over again, and it can do it over and over.

一旦这个过程开始,水母的“钟”状主体(通常是指圆顶的像“降落伞”的部分)和它的触手就会开始衰弱,然后变回一个水螅体,并附着在一个某东西表面上,开始一次又一次地成长为水母,而它可以不断地循环这个过程。

Part of what actually happens to the jellyfish in this process is called cellular transdifferentiation. Its cells change from type to another, producing a completely different body plan.

水母在再生过程中实际发生的一个生物现象通常被称为细胞转化。水母的细胞从一种类型改变到另一种类型,从而产生了一个完全不同的身体。

Although Dr Gershwin says she can’t see any link currently between jellyfish immortality and our own, it doesn’t mean some sort of genetic splicing would not be possible in the future. Who knows? A few jelly genes and we could all be like Doctor Who, regenerating whenever we wearied of ourselves.

尽管格什温博士说她目前看不到水母永生与人类生命之间的任何联系,但这并不意味着将来不会产生任何形式的基因剪接作用。谁又能预测未来呢?也许在以后,只需要运用一些水母基因,我们都能成为神秘博士(英国科幻小说电视连续剧中可以不断重生的主角),在我们厌倦自己的人生之时可以选择重来。

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