“I want to be forever young, I want to be forever young” is a ghastly karaoke favourite. And indeed many of us want to remain strong, fit, and healthy for optimum survival. But for each individual organism life on earth is a gift with an expiry date. Immortality escapes us. However, immortality could be possible for the Hydra - a tiny animal that can be found in almost any regular freshwater pond.
The biologically immortal Hydra is just a few millimeters long with extraordinary regenerative abilities. The animal’s potential immortality is because of its reproductive system. The Hydra is asexual, and instead of mating produces buds in the body wall, which grow to be miniature adults that break away when mature. In the main, animals that reproduce later on and less frequently tend to live longer…yeah live longer, but not forever, so the Hydra really is an unique phenomenon.
While it appears that the Hydra does not die from old age, universal scientific consensus has yet to be reached. But the very possibility of its immortality makes the Hydra very interesting.
Belonging to the phylum Cnidaria, hydra are part of a group of organisms known as cnidarians which include jellyfish and sea anemones. And even though hydra are wee little multicellular organisms of less than half an inch in length, they are marvels of the animal world. By all appearances, they seem to neither age nor die of old age. How can an animal not age?