The art of understatement is not dead

A front page story in today’s New York Times describes how scientists could bring back woolly mammoths for as little as $10 million:

If the genome of an extinct species can be reconstructed, biologists can work out the exact DNA differences with the genome of its nearest living relative. There are talks on how to modify the DNA in an elephant’s egg so that after each round of changes it would progressively resemble the DNA in a mammoth egg. The final-stage egg could then be brought to term in an elephant mother, and mammoths might once again roam the Siberian steppes.

The article further notes that it’s not just mammoths that might be resurrected this way. In theory, the process could work for any extinct animal “from which one can obtain hair, horn, hooves, fur or feathers, and which went extinct within the last 60,000 years, the effective age limit for DNA”—including our evolutionary cousins. Emphasis added:

The same would be technically possible with Neanderthals, whose full genome is expected to be recovered shortly, but there would be several ethical issues in modifying modern human DNA to that of another human species.

Gee, ya think?