Rob Dunn and his team analyzed bacteria and archaea from the belly buttons of humans from two different populations; they aren’t your average navel gazers – they’re professional navel gazers, and they’re doing it all… for science!

The basic idea is that the belly button is one of the least scrubbed places of the human body, making it one of the most pristine bacterial environments humans harbor – which could kind of explain why some people are totally grossed out by navels.

The team analyzed 60 belly buttons, finding a total of 2,368 bacterial species, 1,458 of which may be new to science. Like with most people, some belly button harbored more species, some less, but most had 67 species. Ninety-two percent of the bacteria types showed up on fewer than 10 percent of subjects – in fact, most of the time, they appeared in only one subject, which is pretty significant in itself.

The subjects were varied; one science writer, for example, harbored a species of bacteria only found in Japan – a place he or his family never visited. Another subject, who hadn’t washed for years, hosted two species of so-called extremophile bacteria that typically thrive in ice caps and thermal vents.

Not even a single strain appeared on all subjects, but 8 were found in over 70 percent of subjects; and when one of the species found often was present, others followed in great numbers.

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