Today in research: confused mosquitoes, same-sex sea squid sex, an immune system like a shark and soul-searching about a longevity gene.

  • What does DEET do to (sort of) keep mosquitoes from biting? Even if you presume that bug-repellent DEET is full of chemicals that can't be good for you, it's nearly impossible to stop spraying it when you're being eaten alive by mosquitoes. Having said that, few know how the product works. Today, University of Rochester researchers offered a new theory: "it confuses insects as they try to smell their way to a target. An alternative theory is that DEET's smell actively repels them." We guess there are plenty of confused mosquitoes buzzing around. [Associated Press]
  • There's lots of talk about same-sex sea squid lately.  Scientists observed they aren't very choosy when it comes to mating. And headline writers are having fun with the idea. If you're going to be reading about the research (entitled: "A shot in the dark: same-sex sexual behavior in a deep-sea squid"), The New York Times has the most context. It offers a laundry list of same-sex sex tendencies among animals, even going as far back as saying "Noah might well have had two female albatrosses on the ark." Remember gay mice? [The New York Times]
  • Longevity research just had a soul-searching moment. We're fond of pointing out all the curious ways that research has linked to eking a few extra years out of life. But today, it looks like one of those potential links--a gene linked with longevity in certain types of animals (worms and flies)--was shown not to have an effect on prolonging life. As a professor of behavioral genetics explained to The Boston Globe: "This field has been marked by both conscious and unconscious interpretation, and let me say tremendous over-interpretation, of very limited datasets...What I think is going on is the field now is starting to re-examine itself." [The Boston Globe]
  •  Some sharks have a very high immunity to infections.  For Shark Week devotees, that alone would be enough to justify reading all of this BBC News article. But this isn't just a interesting little tidbit. Researcher Michael Zasloff, who was wondering why sharks were so "hardy," found that scientists "may be able to harness the shark's novel immune system" to use those same chemicals to protect humans against viruses. It appears that the research is still in a theorizing stage. [BBC News]