‘Sea Nomads’ Are First Known Humans Genetically Adapted to Diving

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If you hold your breath and plunge your face into a tub of water, your body automatically triggers what’s called the diving response. Your heart rate slows, your blood vessels constrict, and your spleen contracts, all reactions that help you save energy when you’re low on oxygen.

Most people can hold their breath underwater for a few seconds, some for a few minutes. But a group of people called the Bajau takes free diving to the extreme, staying underwater for as long as 13 minutes at depths of around 200 feet. These nomadic people live in waters winding through the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, where they dive to hunt for fish or search for natural elements that can be used in crafts.

Now, a study in the journal Cell offers the first clues that a DNA mutation for larger spleens gives the Bajau a genetic advantage for life in the deep.

Read National Geographic

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