A belly button microbial 'portrait'

We’ve been hinting for weeks now… through our tweets and updates to the Belly Button Biodiversity project website

And now it’s official! We just published our first findings from the Belly Button Biodiversity project in the scientific research journal PLOS ONE (It’s an open access journal so you can read and download the whole thing right here).

We approached the data collected from this first batch of 60 navels much like an explorer approaches a newly discovered patch of rainforest; we started by asking very basic questions, namely what and how many species live there.

Turns out, belly buttons are a jungle of microbial biodiversity: we detected over 2300 species! And get this, only eight of those 2300 species– we call them oligarchs – were quite frequent and abundant, present in more than 70% of the individuals we sampled.

Our fearless leader Rob Dunn shares his thoughts on what these results mean and what mysteries remain to be solved (hint: there are many) in a new post on the Scientific American Guest Blog.

Check out our photo gallery of the oligarchs, those frequent and abundant navel-dwellers, as well as our gallery of belly button bacteria ‘portraits.’ Perhaps yours is in the mix?

And here’s some more great news coverage on the paper from:

And as always, we’re eager to hear what you think – Were the results surprising to you? What factors do you think might explain individual variation in belly button microbes? Join the conversation by commenting below or sharing your thoughts on Twitter #bellybutton.