Physical Address

304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124

The Aquatic Enclave: A Town of Genetically Enhanced Superhumans Thriving Underwater

How long can you hold your breath underwater? 90 seconds, maybe two minutes and little more. However, the Bajau are capable of submerging hup to 70 meters deep and last 13 minutes without breathing. As a study published in the journal Cell points out, unique populations can be found that demonstrate that humans are lhe only mammals that have managed to colonize the most extreme environments of the Earth, from high-altitude mountain ranges to remote Pacific islands. And this is something that has caught the attention of scientists who wonder what makes them unique in the world.


The Bajau or ‘sea nomads’ pass by daily more than 60% of your working time underwater, with no other equipment than wooden glasses and a set of weights that takes them to the bottom, where they move with great agility. According to Herawati Sudoyo, a geneticist at the Mochtar Riady Institute of Nanotechnology (MRIN) who is carrying out a genomic study of this population, the Bajau tribe, known as “sea nomads”, has been found to have a high tolerance to hypoxia. Characteristics that make them almost superhuman, while they become one with the water.

Those who have visited the Bajau describe that before the immersion they begin to breathe very slowly, in a relaxation exercise that helps them reduce their heart rate. Richard Moon, from the Duke University School of Medicine in the United States, who studies the human body’s response to extreme altitudes and depths, explains to ABC that there are some unique genetic aspects in the Bajau that may be the key to their apnea diving.

Already in the 16th century, the Venetian Antonio Pigafetta in his book ‘Primo Viaggio Intorno al Globo Terracqueo’, who spoke about himThe expedition of Ferdinand Magellan and Juan Sebastián Elcano, highlighted the diving capabilities of the Bajau. It is not known for certain when they developed this ability. Sergio Roldán Muñoz, CSIC predoctoral researcher from the Asia and Pacific studies group, tells ABC that the Bajau are an ethnic group from Southeast Asia included in the maritime nomadic groups. They are found in the waters of Filipinos, Malasians and Indonesians and there are more than a million people who live on houseboats or in coastal villages.

They learn to dive just by three years. For centuries they were merchants thanks to their mobility, which is why they were also called ‘the gypsies of the sea’. They depended on fishing and selling pearls that they collected while diving. Now they subsist by collecting shellfish, fish or turtle shells. His knowledge of the sea transmitted by the oldest It is such that it is said to be what allowed all the Bajau to be saved from the 2004 tsunami. A disaster that claimed the lives of 260,000 people.

«The Bajau have been probably living for thousands of years in boats, traveling from one place to another in the waters of Southeast Asia, occasionally visiting land,” Melissa Llardo, a researcher formerly at the Center for Geogenetics at the University of Copenhagen and now a professor at the University of Utah, tells ABC. She was one of the scientists involved in a study on Bajau terrain published in the journal Cell.

He adds that the Bajau people have evolved in a way that changes their physiology. Its members have an evolutionary adaptation that helps them dive safely and is due to the fact that for thousands of years they have lived as marine hunter-gatherers, obtaining almost everything they need from the sea.

Furthermore, science explains that freedivers benefit from a physical reaction called ‘dip reflex’ in which the blood vessels narrow and the spleen contracts. And this helps reduce oxygen consumption underwater. So a key piece may be the Bajau’s spleen, an organ that helps recycle red blood cells and maintain the immune system.

Llardo started from various investigations in his espartia that showed that seal spleens, which are marine mammals that have a disproportionately large spleen when they spend a lot of time underwater. The idea was to see if the same thing happened with the Bajau.

To read the full note click Here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *