Bellybutton Diversity Project



Belly-button (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Researchers recently published their findings with regard to the oddly named Belly Button Diversity Project, which had been run in an attempt  to answer that eternal question of what actually lurks inside your belly button?

You know, of course, that the answer could include anything from dirt and lint to a piercing, but these new findings, coming from studies in which 66 men and women had to swab their navels with sterile Q-tips before extensive testing, revealed that, shockingly foe some perhaps, belly buttons contained on average 67 different bacteria species for each test subject involved.

Belly buttons were actually selected for testing in an effort to  to reach out to the public. The aim was to give a lesson about the ecology and evolution of everyday life, the study led by North Carolina State University associate professor of biology Rob Dunn, PhD.

His claim was that the belly button is in fact a fascinating, fun habitat replete with, in many cases little known living organisms, which by its very nature gets less exposure and less frequent washing than other skin areas, leaving the resident bacterial community far less disturbed. So effective is this semi-isolation that the team discovered in total, 2,368 different species of bacteria, representing a huge amount of biological diversity.

 Some of the bacteria species involved were rare, and rarely found, the interesting thing being that just  a mere 8 bacterial types occurred in more than 70% of all the people screened, including one species of Bacillus that may be protecting the body from fungi, and  another able survive without oxygen, called Micrococcus.


Support bacteria - they are the only culture s...

Support bacteria – they are the only culture some people have! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Support bacteria – they are the only culture some people have! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The hope is that, if scientists get to know more about the commonly found species, it will help them better understand skin bacteria in general, especially which are really good for the skin and which bad. Furthermore, they wish to study ways in which bacteria interact with one another and/or the immune system.

The biggest buzz they got was the discovery of  two samples of a single-cell organism never previously found on human skin. This extremely rare type of archaea  came from a man who reportedly had not bathed in several years, so there may be something to said for such activity, though what is as yet unclear.

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