Belly button ecosystems explored

Last updated 13:41 22/11/2012
Belly Button Bacteria
Belly Button Biodiversity
WARRIOR: Bascillus Subtilis is a key skin bacteria as it kills other bacteria, even foot fungi.

Relevant offers

If you were told you had an ecosystem living in your belly button, it might come as a bit of shock.

The Belly Button Biodiversity project has set out to catalogue just what's living inside the navel.

The project, overseen by scientists from North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, has taken a sampling of belly button swabs from themselves as well as students, science bloggers and others.

The BBB scientists want to strike down the "bad bacteria" stereotype and teach the world that many bacteria are harmless, helpful and often just hanging around, mooching off your body.

The navel is an ideal place for bacteria to thrive because it's isolated and most people don't bother to wash it.

One question the BBB group has asked is: Do the bacteria differ from person to person?

The scientists grew the bacteria from hundreds of swab samples and found that most people's belly button ecosystems are unique.

They found 2368 types of bacteria, with 2188 present on fewer than 10 per cent of the samples.

Several of BBB's samples are posted at

They include a bacillus that produces antibiotic compounds that can kill other bacteria as well as foot fungi, and a type of clostridial bacterium.

The latter's diverse family includes botulism and gangrene bacteria, along with many harmless bugs.


Ad Feedback
Special offers
Opinion poll

What will be the main motivation for humanity's future space endeavours?

Quest for alien life

Making money

Human spirit of exploration

To escape an ailing Earth

China vs the rest space race

Vote Result

Related story: (See story)

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content

In Our Nature blog

In Our Nature, with Nicola Toki

The cost of losing nature