Integrative Biology

The Secret of the Sea Nomads

The Bajau people, commonly known as “sea nomads,” live in coastal regions of the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. They spend some 60 percent of their working hours in the sea, foraging for food at depths of up to 230 feet below the surface. Bajau divers are known to hold their breath for several minutes at a time.

How do they do it? Researchers think they have found the key: larger spleens.

Findings like these are a reminder that humans, like all animals, are products of evolution.

From the Summer 2018 Our Town issue of California.

Notes from Understory: A Berkeley Biologist Gauges the Health of the Redwoods from the Ferns on the Forest Floor.

Emily Burns was driving north from the Bay Area one day, idly woolgathering, when it hit her.

“Western sword ferns,” she recalls thinking. “They’re twice as big in the northern end of their range as in the southern end. And it struck me that it had to be due to water availability. The fact that it’s wetter in Redwood National Park in Humboldt County than, say, Lime Kiln Creek on the Big Sur coast translates as larger ferns in the north. It all seems obvious now, but there was nothing in the literature on it.”

Possible Upside to Stress

We all know that stress is bad for us. Stress kills, you’ll have a heart attack, you’ll have a breakdown. Here, squeeze a little foam ball, take a walk, practice mindfulness, pet a puppy, etc., etc. —just don’t stress out. It’s bad.

Except it turns out that, maybe (so far, it’s true for lab rats), some stress is good for our brains.

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