Laboratory rearing and reconstruction of Laodicea undulata (Hydrozoa) life cycle led to the discovery for the first time in Leptomedusae of the potential for ontogeny reversal, i.e. the medusa stage can asexually transform back into the polyp stage. In turn, each rejuvenated polyp stage can newly activate the standard developmental programme towards colony morphogenesis and budding of secondary medusae. These can be considered as clonemates of the initial medusa batch, since they originate by asexual processes. In combination with the ordinary medusa budding process, the potential for reverse development might represent a tool to increase jellyfish population growth rate during the favourable season, but eventually it does not avoid jellyfish to die. Comparably to polyembryony, reverse development leads to offspring multiplication from a single fertilization event, with a wider dispersal of each single genotype; eventually, it favours the enhancement of the overall genetic diversity at small spatial scale. The life cycle of L. undulata from the Mediterranean Sea is re-described, linking previously uncoupled descriptions of either the polyp or the early medusa stages. Taxonomic considerations of the genus Laodicea and a comparison among the known Mediterranean species are also provided.
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