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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Human Adaptations: Free divers


Freediving has been around for thousands of years and was only way to dive until the inventionof oxygen tanks in the 19th century. Around the world, people dove for goods such as pearls, andtoday people freedive for sport. Divers stretch the limit of their body and mind’s capabilitiesthrough psychological adaptations from thermal, respiratory, and cardiovascular responses.Findings conclude that thermal adaptations are a similar process to cold adaptive response. Withthe implementation of wetsuits, this adaptation has disappeared. Other adaptations includerespiratory tolerance of the build up of carbon dioxide, different flows of gas exchange, andincreased lung volume capacity. Cardiovascular changes in freedivers are attributed to the divingresponse, or the innate animalistic ability to survive when in water. These innate responsesinclude: a decreased heartbeat, increased blood pressure, and decreased blood flow to the limbs.This response is more pronounced after only two weeks of breath-hold training. Freediving,although adaptive, is dangerous and causes issues ranging from dizziness to death. There aremany environmental adaptations, but little research and conclusive evidence of geneticadaptations involved.

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