Well, this is unsettling. Turns out you may not have to look far for the next discovery of an unknown ecosystem or species. You can stick your finger in your belly button and find something just as fun and exciting. And I’m not talking about lint!
The Belly Button Biodiversity Project (yes, seriously) is on a quest to discover what kinds of minuscule organisms live on us and what we can learn from them. They analyzed swabs taken from the belly buttons of 92 participants, finding more than 1,400 species of bacteria, a number they’re calling “conservative.”
“About 600 or so don’t match up in obvious ways with known species,” said professor Rob Dunn, the belly button principal investigator, “which is to say either they are new to science or we don’t know them well enough. The crazy thing about these species is we are discovering new things that are living on people. They are right there, incredibly close to us.” Wonderful! Just what I want to hear about what’s happening in my belly cave.
The belly button team ran genetic analysis to determine the species, and attempted to culture them in petri dishes. Many species were not receptive to this technique because they do not like the microbe food provided in the dishes. Some are so unfamiliar, scientists have no idea what they eat. Sounds like what happens when a vegetarian goes to a barbecue.
If you’re gagging at the thought of unfamiliar organisms living in your crevices, it is important to know that microbes can be helpful, as they are the first line of defense against bacteria.
The project has collected over 400 belly button samples to date. You can check out some petri dishes of belly button contents here if you’re interested. The organization is hoping to pique the public’s interest in the number of mysterious and fascinating things that live on our bodies.
Do you have any desire to find out what’s in your belly button? I wonder if it’s the same for innies and outies? So many questions.