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Word Count: 810
For centuries the seminomadic Moken people have lived as hunter-gatherers dwelling on boats or stilted dwellings along the coasts of Myanmar Burma and Thailand They harvest the seas bounty by traditional methods Without masks or scuba gear they are able to gather tiny shellfish and other food on the ocean floor at depths as low as 75 feet 23 meters Its a difficult way to survive but scientists have learned that these sea gypsies have an important edge Studies of Moken children have shown them to have incredible underwater vision--twice as good as that of European children of the same age Anna Gisl of Swedens Lund University did the study after hearing of the Mokens talents from a colleague Another scientist Erika Schagatay was in the south of China working with sea nomads and their diving response Gisl recalled She noticed that the children were picking out small brown clams from among brown stones To her this was incomprehensible as she could hardly see them with goggles and the children used no such thing It was not her area of science so eventually it ended up on my desk Gisl ventured to Thailands Surin islands where she conducted underwater tests on Moken children and compared their scores with those of European kids vacationing in the area Her results were first published in the May 13 2003 issue of Current Biology Gisl found no differences in the childrens respective eye structures or in their vision on land Underwater however it was a different story The Moken children displayed underwater vision twice as sharp as their European counterparts Their secret lies in the way their eyes adapt to the underwater environment Underwater Adaptations The refractive power of the eyes corneal surface a key to clear vision is greatly reduced underwater The different densities of air and water cause the problem Water has similar density to fluids inside the eye so refraction is
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