EntertainmentWonders

A tribe that has adapted to diving due to a genetic mutation can swim to the bottom of the ocean.

Genetic mutation and swimming in the deep ocean: The Bajau tribe of Indonesia are the first known humans to be genetically adapted to diving.

The people of this tribe live a very amphibious life and it has now been proven that they have the genetic makeup to do so.

Living on the coast of Indonesia for over 1,000 years, the Bajau people live in houseboats and spend much of their lives at sea.

As expected, they are highly skilled at deep-sea diving and spearfishing, as well as possessing exceptional lung capacity and strong swimming abilities.
Members of this tribe can dive up to 230 feet using only a set of weights and a pair of wooden goggles.

Genetic mutation and swimming in the deep ocean
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“They dive repeatedly for eight hours a day and spend about 60 percent of their time underwater,” Melissa Ilardo of the University of Cambridge told the BBC.

But it turns out that it’s not just their skills that help them achieve this goal, but a unique genetic mutation – known as the “sea nomad gene” – that also helps their diving ability. They have very large spleens.
The spleen begins to function when the body is submerged in water, highlighting its key role in the human diving response. The spleen contracts and injects oxygenated red blood cells into the bloodstream – which can increase the oxygen in a person’s blood by 9%.

So it makes sense that by having a larger spleen, Bajau people have a genetic advantage when swimming underwater.

“There’s not a lot known about the human spleen in terms of physiology and genetics, but we know that deep-diving seals, like the Weddell seal, have disproportionate spleens,” Dr. Ilardo said.

genetic mutation can swim to the bottom of the ocean
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“We believe that in the Bajau they have an adaptation that increases their thyroid hormone levels and thus increases their spleen size.
Thyroid hormones and spleen size are correlated in mice. If you genetically modify mice to lack the thyroid hormone T4, their spleens are drastically reduced in size, but this effect is reversible by injecting T4.

It is difficult to know exactly how long the Bajau people stay underwater, but some tribesmen claim to have been under the sea for 13 minutes.

Unfortunately, their way of life is now under threat.

Their nomadic ways mean they can struggle to gain citizenship, plus commercial fishing has decimated their food supply.

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