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What it’s like to be a jellyfish

They have a secret coveted by humans the world over—and they might not even know it

By Cal Flyn   July 2021

Jellyfish have no central brain, but they do have a central nervous centre with decision-making powers. Illustration: Kate Hazell

When I try to picture death and understand my life in relation to its ultimate, inevitable end, I always come up short. The impossibility of death in the mind of someone living—to borrow a phrase from Damien Hirst—brings us hard up against the limitations of imagination. Of course, I will die one day, whether I can conceive of it or not. And so will almost every living creature on this Earth.

But perhaps not quite all. Several species display remarkable feats of survival, withstanding extreme conditions for years on end. Tardigrades, for example, the millimetre-long micro-animals known as…

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