Southeast Asian Bajau ‘sea nomads’ have evolved larger spleens to allow them to dive longer, according to a study published in Cell by Cambridge, Berkeley and Copenhagen researchers
- The DNA mutation was uncovered in the Bajau people of southeast Asia, according to researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and the Universities of Cambridge and Copenhagen.
- Scientists suspect the mutation alters the spleen, a part of the body that’s instrumental in maintaining body functions with limited oxygen.
- The spleen is important when diving because the organ is full of red blood cells that carry oxygen, according to researchers — so the Bajau’s huge spleens, which are 50% larger than average, can presumably pump more blood cells into the body as they dive. That in turn prevents the human body from becoming oxygen-starved after minutes below water, researchers said.
- Researchers said the mutation the Bajau have developed is a prime example of how extensively humans can adapt to unusual environments.