First Known Humans Genetically Adapted to Diving: These ‘Sea Nomads’ Can Stay Deep Under Water


The Bajau, a group of nomadic people in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, can stay underwater for as long as 13 minutes at depth of around 230 feet. 

These people spend up to 60 % of their working life underwater. They dive for food and searching for natural elements for crafts. They have a genetic advantage for life underwater, according to a study in the journal Cell

A study shows that the median size of a Bajau person’s spleen, the organ that helps support the immune system and recycle red blood cells, is 50% bigger than the same organ in other individuals. The Bajau have lived in the region for a thousand years and over time, natural selection helped them develop the genetic advantage. 

The everyday training the Bajau people subject themselves might also explain how they dive so well. They spend more than five hours underwater, capturing fish, octopuses and rare sea craft materials. Their lung chest wall most likely became more compliant and the diaphragm probably became stretched. 

The genetic change in the Bajau people inspire new ways of treating patients who suffer from strokes and heart attacks on land.

Read more: The First-Ever Animal That Doesn’t Need Oxygen to Survive


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