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PeerJ. 2018 Jan 8;6:e4225. doi: 10.7717/peerj.4225. eCollection 2018.

Ontogeny reversal and phylogenetic analysis of Turritopsis sp.5 (Cnidaria, Hydrozoa, Oceaniidae), a possible new species endemic to Xiamen, China.

Li JY#1,2, Guo DH#3, Wu PC3, He LS1.

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Department of Life Sciences, Institute of Deep-Sea Science and Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Sanya, Hainan, China.
College of Earth Sciences, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
College of Ocean and Earth Sciences, Xiamen University, Xiamen, Fujian, China.
Contributed equally


Ontogeny reversal, as seen in some cnidarians, is an unprecedented phenomenon in the animal kingdom involving reversal of the ordinary life cycle. Three species of Turritopsis have been shown to be capable of inverted metamorphosis, a process in which the pelagic medusa transforms back into a juvenile benthic polyp stage when faced with adverse conditions. Turritopsis sp.5 is a species of Turritopsis collected from Xiamen, China which presents a similar ability, being able to reverse its life cycle if injured by mechanical stress. Phylogenetic analysis based on both 16S rDNA and cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) genetic barcodes shows that Turritopsis sp.5 is phylogenetically clustered in a clade separate from other species of Turritopsis. The genetic distance between T. sp.5 and the Japanese species T. sp.2 is the shortest, when measured by the Kimura 2-Parameter metric, and the distance to the New Zealand species T. rubra is the largest. An experimental assay on the induction of reverse development in this species was initiated by cutting medusae into upper and lower parts. We show, for the first time, that the two dissected parts have significantly different potentials to transform into polyps. Also, a series of morphological changes of the reversed life cycle can be recognised, including medusa stage, contraction stage I, contraction stage II, cyst, cyst with stolons, and polyp. The discovery of species capable of reverse ontogeny caused by unfavorable conditions adds to the available systems with which to study the cell types that contribute to the developmental reversal and the molecular mechanisms of the directional determination of ontogeny.


China; Hydroid; Medusa; Reverse development; Turritopsis

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