THE PAVILIONS PHUKET BRITISH INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL, PHUKET
THE PAVILIONS PHUKET BRITISH INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL, PHUKET Kata Rocks
The Phuket News Novosti Phuket Khao Phuket

Sea change: First genetic adaptation to diving discovered in ‘Sea Nomads’

Sea change: First genetic adaptation to diving discovered in ‘Sea Nomads’

Researchers have discovered the first evidence that people can genetically adapt to deep diving, as shown by the unusually large spleens in indigenous people of Indonesia known as the “Sea Nomads”, a scientific study has revealed.

marineculturehealth
By AFP

Sunday 8 July 2018, 02:00PM


The spear-fishing Bajau people regularly free-dive to depths of up to 70 meters, with only weights and a wooden mask.

They spend up to 60% of their work day diving for fish, spearing octopus and gathering crustaceans – an amount of time rivalled only by sea otters – and can stay underwater up to 13 minutes at a time, said the report in the journal Cell.

Intrigued by this unusual ability, American researcher Melissa Ilardo, at the time a postdoctoral candidate at the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen, wondered if they had genetically adapted somehow to be able to spend more time underwater than other people.

She spent several months in Jaya Bakti, Indonesia, with the help of a translator, getting to know the Bajau and another nearby group that did not dive, the Saluan.

“I spent my whole first visit to Jaya Bakti introducing myself, the project, and the underlying science,” she told AFP.

“I wanted to be sure that they understood exactly what I was asking of them so they could help to direct the project to reflect their interests. They were very curious and excited about the research.”

Before her second visit, she learned some Indonesian in order to be able to communicate directly with the Bajau.

Scans and gene tests

Ms Ilardo took genetic samples and did ultrasound scans, which showed that Bajau had spleens about 50% larger than those of the Saluan.

Spleens are important in diving – and are also enlarged in some seals – because they release more oxygen into the blood when the body is under stress, or a person is holding their breath underwater.

Spleens were larger in the Balau people whether they were regular divers or not, and further analysis of their DNA revealed why.

Zest Real Estate

Comparing the genomes of the Bajau to two different populations, the Saluan and the Han Chinese, scientists found 25 sites that differed significantly.

Among them was one site on a gene known as PDE10A, which was determined to be linked to the Bajau’s larger spleen size.

In mice, “PDE10A is known for regulating a thyroid hormone that controls spleen size, lending support for the idea that the Bajau might have evolved the spleen size necessary to sustain their long and frequent dives,” said the study.

More research is needed to understand how thyroid hormone affects human spleen size.

The findings could boost research in medicine by helping researchers understand how the body reacts to a loss of oxygen in various contexts, from diving to high-latitude climbing to surgery and lung disease.

“This really tells us how valuable and important indigenous populations are around the world that are living extreme lifestyles,” said co-author Eske Willerslev, a professor at the University of Copenhagen.

Willerslev admitted he initially urged Ms Ilardo not to pursue the research for her PhD thesis, believing it was too risky and that she may find nothing.

“She said she wanted to do it anyway and that paid off. Melissa was right and our concerns were wrong.”

Ms Ilardo said she was aware of the risks but “believed so strongly in this project”, that she had to push on.

“The Bajau and other Sea Nomads are simply extraordinary and I wanted to be able to prove that to the world,” she said, now a US National Institutes of Health postdoctoral scholar at the department of Molecular Medicine at the University of Utah.

Comment on this story

* Please login to comment. If you do not have an account please register below by simply entering a username, password and email address. You can still leave your comment below at the same time.

CAPTCHA

Be the first to comment.

Have a news tip-off? Click here

 

Phuket community
Body of second missing Filipino found off Phuket

Koh Keow (Green Island) is 1 of 2 small islands in the south of Phuket next to Promthep Cape. Isnt i...(Read More)


Phuket readies for HM King’s birthday

Fascinated, it is clearly mentioned that no ban on alcohol sales has been announced SO FAR. What n...(Read More)


Cross Hotels & Resorts inks deal for new Phuket venue

To be clear, they are taking over an existing hotel, not adding a new one to Patong's already th...(Read More)


Phuket Poll: Environmental damage, prices too high

And what would Mr.K like officials to do about those high prices? Force everyone to sell food at low...(Read More)


PM Prayut calls out Phuket van driver for overcharging Aussie tourists

What has this water shortage talk from Mr.K to do with this article? And as he knows that there wil...(Read More)


Phuket airport van B3k fare ‘just a misunderstanding’, say police

As Mr.K knows the prices so well,maybe he could tell us what the published prices are at those desk...(Read More)


Phuket Opinion: Hit the dog

No one would deny that this was an appalling thing to do, but if you want to talk about legal ramifi...(Read More)


Phuket readies for HM King’s birthday

Err Capn Jack READ the last sentence there is CLEARLY mention of it....(Read More)


Bridging Supply: Officials reveal B3.5bn proposal to resolve island’s water shortage woes

Ahhhh Dkk- still as arrogant as ever I read. I've been waiting years for YOUR constructive comme...(Read More)


Phuket Poll: Environmental damage, prices too high

Great Phuket Poll. Now waiting for response of Phuket Officialdom as the outcome is significant. Sic...(Read More)