What is it about that little dimple in the center of our bodies that makes it so darn interesting? It may seem to be there just to collect dust and hang an occasional ring on, but in fact, there are more fascinating facts about belly buttons than you might have imagined.
The belly button, which is what remains of the nutrient-bringing umbilical cord after birth, is one of the characteristics that classifies humans as mammals (although, as Reader's Digest has pointed out, a few exceptions to the belly-button rule do exist, such as kangaroos and platypuses.)
For an area that takes up so little space on our torsos, it certainly takes up a lot of our minds. Songs have been written about it (most notably the VeggieTales' "Belly Button Song," in which Mr. Lunt bewails his lack of a navel. Turns out, he's a gourd, so his stumpy umbilical stem is on the top of his head). Popular children's author/cartoonist Sandra Boynton has penned The Belly Button Book for toddlers.
On a more philosophical level, the question of whether Adam and Eve had navels has been plaguing Biblical scholars throughout the ages. Culturally, belly buttons have been the source of controversy, too. Showing a woman's navel on TV was banned from 1951 to 1983, according to MeTV. That made it tough for actresses on I Dream of Jeannie, Gilligan's Island, and other shows where bikinis and other two-piece outfits were standard wear.
What else is there to know about our little stomach dent? A lot, it turns out. Here are some fun facts you may not have known (and which will be hard to forget once you read them).
"Innies" are the most common type of belly button.
According to a poll conducted by MSNBC, nearly 90 percent of respondents reported having "innie" belly buttons: you know, the kind that sink in toward your stomach and collect all that lovely lint. Outies are definitely the minority, and some folks with sticking-out navels actually opt to have them surgically corrected in a procedure called umbilicoplasty, per Mental Floss.
Your belly button type has nothing to do with genetics.
If you have an outie, that doesn't necessarily mean your kids will too. The navel is created by the scar left at birth after the umbilical cord is cut and the stump falls off. The amount of space between the skin and the abdominal wall determines whether the scar will create an innie, or if extra tissue will stick out for an outie. As Parenting explained, an outie can also be caused by an umbilical hernia when the abdominal muscles don't quite close all the way. Not to worry, though; it's a condition that usually resolves itself.
Exploring it may have a really weird effect on you.
Stick your finger (or a cotton swab) deep into your belly button while cleaning it, and you might just feel a sudden urge to pee. What the what? Odd but true, as Dr. Christopher Hollingsworth of NYU Surgical Associates told BuzzFeed: The inside of the navel is connected to the deep fibers of your abdominal lining, which in turn sends signals to your spinal cord at the same level as the signals that come from your urethra. Your brain interprets this as a need to go.
Your navel is a bacteria breeding ground.
Don't read this if you're about to eat lunch: Professor Rob Dunn of North Carolina State University founded Belly Button Biodiversity in 2011, where he and his team study the various microbes living in our tummy crevices. They've identified more than 2,300 species so far, but don't freak out; they're actually an important part of our immune system. Now, Dunn and his lab partners are trying to figure out whether certain microbes are more likely to thrive in certain segments of the population.
There's a specific word for looking at your navel.
Got a toddler who can't stop looking at and poking around their belly button? That's called omphaloskepsis, affirmed Merriam-Webster, and it can also be used to refer to someone who's so self-absorbed that they don't see what's going on around them.
It can determine your athletic ability.
If your child's belly button is low on their torso, think about signing them up for swim lessons. According to a Duke University study cited in The Atlantic, people with low-lying navels are naturally good at swimming, while folks whose belly buttons are higher than most are more likely to be excellent runners. Why? It's all about the center of gravity, which is where your navel is located. A higher center of gravity helps propel you forward faster, while a lower center of gravity creates bigger waves in the water that move swimmers more quickly.
There's a place where you can celebrate the belly button every year.
Totally not making this up. According to TripAdvisor, the town of Furano, Japan, decided back in 1969 to celebrate its status as the geographic center of Hokkaido by creating an annual "Belly Button Festival." During the two-day event, residents hang decorations, sell souvenirs, and have a parade featuring thousands of dancers with faces painted on their stomachs. Want to check it out for yourself? This year's festival will take place from July 28-29.