Meet Turritopsis nutriculaas, a form of jellyfish that is the world's only known immortal creature.
Before we talk about fictional immortals, here's a bit of information about the above photograph. Scientists have recognized Turritopsis nutriculaas as the only known animal that is capable of rejuvenating itself, thus sustaining life over and over again—the concept of being immortal.
Jellyfish usually die after propagating, but according to the London Times Turritopsis reverts to a sexually immature stage after reaching adulthood and is capable of rejuvenating itself. It is the only known animal capable of reverting to its juvenile polyp state. In theory, this cycle can repeat indefinitely, making it potentially immortal.
The creature is only 4-5mm in diameter and is found in warm tropical waters but is believed to be spreading across the world as ships discharge their ballast water in ports.
And now on to the other type of immortal—the characters in our myths, literature and movies/television. I saw a list a while back of the top ten immortal characters, a cross-section sampling from various forms of storytelling.
10. Peter Pan: The famous boy who never grows up (or grows old) and prefers to live on the magical isle of Neverland.
9. Dracula: If you're desperate to live forever, you could try getting bitten by Dracula or any of the other well-known vampires. Of course, you'd have to give up Italian food which is loaded with garlic and no more tanning at the beach.
8. Lazarus Long: A character in many of Robert Heinlein's science fiction novels. Lazarus lives to be over 2,000 years old, travels to distant planets, and travels through time.
7. Nicolas Flamel: J.K. Rowling based Flamel's character (good friend to Hogwart's headmaster) on a real-life French 15th Century alchemist who legend claims successfully created the Philosopher's Stone, a mythical elixir that turns lead into gold and grants eternal life.
6. Tithonus: When Greek goddess Eos asks Zeus to grant her mortal lover, Tithonus, eternal life, she forgets to also ask for eternal youth. Tithonus lives forever, but he grows old and frail, and begs for death.
5. Dorian Gray: Oscar Wilde created this character who remains young and handsome while his portrait ages. He becomes corrupt, but his crimes and true age show only in the face of the painting which grows progressively more monstrous and withered.
4. Highlander: In the 1986 movie, Connor MacLeod is a member of the immortals, a mysterious race who die only when they are beheaded. The immortals must battle each other until only one is left to claim The Prize: the gift of immortality. The movie created a television series starring Adrian Paul as Duncan MacLeod.
3. Grail Knight: A knight of the First Crusade. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade he is given the task of guarding the Holy Grail, a crucible that grants eternal life to any who drink from it.
2. Methuselah: He's the oldest person whose age is mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible, becoming a father at the age of 187 and living to be 969 years old.
1. Arwen: A half-elven maiden in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings who renounces eternal life to marry her mortal sweetheart. She lives to be 2,901 years old.
Do you have a favorite immortal character among the many?