Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Bodies Remodeled for Life at Sea
Recently, a team of researchers have gained particular interest in a group of individuals scattered across Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. The Bajau, are a group of individuals who have been known for their abilities to dive 200 feet with just a pair of wooden goggles. This phenomenon is an ideal example of natural selection affecting humans in a more recent event. The Bajau people have suspected to start diving for sea cucumbers starting in the 1600s or possibly after the most recent Ice Age. When Dr. Melissa Ilardo, a genetics student at the University of Copenhagen, heard about these people she decided to take scans of the spleens of these individuals. Spleens allow the supply of oxygen-rich red blood cells into circulation during the so-called diving reflex. Turns out that those individuals who have bigger spleens have a mutant copy of PDE10A gene that influences the size of the spleen. This is new information to scientists as there has been no direct knowledge on what the PDE10A gene does. It has been shown that this gene controls the level of thyroid hormones inside the body but with this new data a new function may soon be determined. The Bajau people are a unique example of more recent natural selection in humans similar to the people in Tibet and their abilities to live at higher altitudes.
Additional Information: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/30/science/mountain-populations-offer-clues-to-human-evolution.html