Belly Button Biodiversity
Ah, the belly button - that quirky, funny-looking and often-ignored portal that once connected each of us to our mothers. I shouldn't have been surprised to see a project called "Belly Button Biodiversity
," but it sure did make me giggle.
Researchers, led by Dr. Rob Dunn at NC State, studied 60 navels to find out which bacterial species make up these tiny ecosystems. Each sample was sequenced and researchers discovered thousands of phylotypes (defined in this study as an organism whose sequence in the 16s rDNA gene varied from other organisms by at least 3%). Only eight of those species were found in any significant number of samples, and when those species were found, they typically were found in high abundance in each sample.
"The common, abundant species are from a relatively small number of evolutionary lines, indicating that they have evolved traits that make them at home on human skin," said Dunn. "However, we are still trying to figure out what determines which of these species are found in a given person's belly button. We've looked at sex, age, ethnicity and a number of other factors - none of them are predictive of which species live in that person."
Read the complete paper describing the findings on PLOS-ONE.