harold

When I was a boy and later as an adult my family liked to vacation in Florida. We had relatives in Orlando who allowed us to spend time on both the Gulf and Atlantic side of the state.

Salt water habitat has always been of interest to me. The fish and other creatures that call this environment home could keep my attention for hours at a time. One thing that I found of great interest was the jellyfish that could be observed offshore or stranded in the sand on a beach that was also full of shells of various shapes and colors.

I soon learned that some of the jellyfish that collected on the beach were toxic and could give a painful sting if you came in contact with what did look like a bowl of jelly or Jell-O. Later in life I learned the jellyfish I had found had a link to ancient Greek mythology that was full of stories of gods, goddesses, and other out of this world beings.

One story that I always found interesting was that of Medusa, which is also a stage of a jellyfish’s life cycle. This is the stage when the jellyfish is finally able to swim free from its youth as a polyp that usually can be found living under a rock or some other object. Now back to the story of Medusa.

First Medusa was a gorgeous, stunning young woman who was the daughter of two marine deities. Later in life she served the goddess Athena in her lavish temple that was said to be full of lovely objects of every kind.

Apparently Medusa not only was beautiful, she also was a temptress and male gods found her charm hard to resist. One of the men she lured into her web was Poseidon, the god of the sea, one of the major Greek gods.

As one thing led to another, as we might expect, Medusa became pregnant. Athena went into a rage because her temple had been defiled, so she banned lovely Medusa from the temple. Not only did Athena ban Medusa from her temple, she also turned Medusa from a thing of beauty into something so hideous that the very sight of her could drive a person mad with shock at seeing such a monstrosity.

It seems not only did Medusa have a terrible deformed face, she also had snake-like creatures that projected out from her head. What a change from a beauty to a beast.

Finally the gods had had enough of Medusa and sent Perseus, who had the reputation as a heroic being, out to kill Medusa. Using all the tricks of the Greek gods, such as winged sandals which allowed him to fly, an invisibility cloak and a mirrored shield, Perseus was able to sneak up behind Medusa and kill her.

Even today the story of Medusa lives on with the many projections that hand down from a jellyfish being her tale from a beauty to a beast. A modern story with almost Greek god twists revolves around a species called the moon jellyfish.

In 2016 a Chinese graduate student let a moon jellyfish Medusa alone for a few days and came back to find the Medusa had sunk to the bottom of the tank it had been place in. The jellyfish had stopped moving and appeared dead. Suddenly it broke into pieces and instead of flushing it down the drain the student left the remains in the tank.

After a couple of months the remains came back to life and began to reconstitute itself and tentacles began to appear. Next a mouth formed and within days a healthy polyp had regenerated into the adult stage. Apparently this moon jellyfish had reversed its life cycle and started life all over again.

Ponce de Leon tried his best to find the fountain of youth in Florida. Perhaps he needed to look in the sea to end his quest.

Can this variety of jellyfish help humans to obtain immortality? Who knows? Would you really like to start life all over again? Think about that.

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