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March Mammal Madness

MC Marmot Rodent Roundtable

#2021MMM Championship

Wheaties Box with picture of #2021MMM Champion Red Kangaroo

Championship Results: Red Kangaroo WINS!!!!

Sports Summaries by Prof Kate Lesciotto, Sam Houston State University

Red Kangaroo (1) v. Harpy Eagle (1) – Tonight’s epic championship battle features the #ThunderFromDownUnder Red Kangaroo versus #DeathFromAbove Harpy Eagle. At 85 kg, Red Kangaroo is the largest living marsupial, although the extinct macropod Procoptodon tipped the scales at ~240kg. Harpy Eagle is the largest living eagle with a 2 m wingspan, but also has a chonkier extinct cousin – Haast’s eagle went extinct around 1400 and was 1.5x larger.

The setting for tonight’s battle is the semi-arid desert in Nitmiluk National Park in Australia near a seasonal water hole. Under the full moon, Red Kangaroo pauses near the water hole, sensing something is amiss. As he stands to his full 6-ft height, Harpy Eagle streaks down from above! Red Kangaroo quickly lifts his tiny T-rex arms to prepare a face-punch, but, after gauging the large size of Harpy Eagle, decides instead to lean back on his massive stabilizing tail to deliver a forceful kick. BATTLE ENSUES!!! THE NIGHT RUNS RED WITH BLOOD!!!

Just kidding! The full moon was three nights ago, and Harpy Eagles are diurnal hunters. Here’s what really happened …

In mid-afternoon, Red Kangaroo rests in the shade of a Eucalyptus tree. Native Australian mammal species have seen catastrophic declines due to invasive species such as feral cats, cane toads, horses, and cattle. #MMMagic brings in a new invasive species tonight – Harpy Eagle arrives on the scene to hunt from a perch in another Eucalyptus tree just 30 feet from Red Kangaroo’s tree. Red Kangaroo prepares to ‘pentapedal crawl’ by using its tail as a crutch, when a <whoom whoomp> resonates from above followed by a wailing cry – a barking owl!

Red Kangaroo’s ancestors faced predation from marsupial lions and thylacines, but now in modern times Red Kangaroo’s only natural, endemic predators are dingoes … and wedge-tailed eagles. From her perch, Harpy Eagle spies the movement of a dingo as it enters the field of battle. Harpy Eagle does occasionally target carnivores, but usually mesopredators like foxes, ocelots, tayras, and raccoons instead of apex canid predators. This dingo is also part of a pack, and Red Kangaroo prepares to hop – two more dingoes enter the field, and their presence is known to inhibit kangaroos from using open pastures even in the absence of overt predatory behavior.

Quietly pentapedal crawling to a dry, depressed streambed, Red Kangaroo manages not to get noticed by the dingoes. But Harpy Eagle’s eyes are watching! Her focus was on the dingoes and only caught sight of part of Red Kangaroo – hmm, maybe it’s a juvenile red brocket? Harpy Eagle takes flight! Red Kangaroo is picking up speed in the streambed and without shrubs and bushes in the way is able to locomote at almost 11 mph – but Harpy Eagle is streaking down at 50 mph, #TalonsOut, aiming for Red Kangaroo’s head & shoulders that are visible above the bank of the dry streambed! Almost….there…. 

Just before Harpy Eagle makes contact, Red Kangaroo leaps out of the streambed with arms thrown up! This key anti-predator response can create a moment of hesitation at the last moment and interfere with the completion of an attack. Harpy Eagle is repelled, pivoting in the wind and circling to prepare for another attack! Since birds of prey have anatomical limitations that make head-turning difficult when attacking, if they miss they often have to circle around. But from this angle, Harpy Eagle can now see that this is no juvenile – this is full-size and on-the-defensive Red Kangaroo. Harpy Eagle decides that this is not the prey it seeks, wises up to the situation, and flies away to hunt another day. RED KANGAROO defeats Harpy Eagle!!!! Narrated by Prof Katie Hinde, Dr. Lara Durgavich, Dr. Tara Chestnut & Prof Marc Kissel.

#2021MMM Final Roar

Round 5, Final Roar Results: Red Kangaroo and Harpy Eagle ADVANCE!!!!

Sports Summaries by Prof Kate Lesciotto, Sam Houston State University

Mountain Tapir (3) v. Red Kangaroo (1)Red Kangaroo sailed through the early rounds and revealed some fancy footwork to defeat Red Hartebeest. What other tricks will Red Kangaroo pull out of his pouch for this round? Actually, none – while male Red Kangaroos have incredibly well-developed shoulder and pectoral muscles, they do not have a pouch. Only females have a pouch, used to carry and protect their offspring which are born the size of jellybeans! With incredibly complicated anatomy including 2 uteri and 3 vaginas, a female red kangaroo can have 3 dependent offspring of different ages at the same time. As the only non-#1 seed to make it to the Final Roar, Mountain Tapir is an underdog both in MMM and life. Increasing human pressures like road building, traditional medicine, and making room for cattle have put populations at-risk. Zoos are working on tapir conservation and even use trained dogs to support local conservation efforts.

Our two foes will do battle tonight in the dwarf forest! Along the Kuskokwin River, in southwestern Alaska in the Black Spruce dwarf tree peatland, climate change has affected the field of battle, causing an early ‘breakup,’ when the river and lake ice thaws. Red Kangaroo is not enjoying the 32° weather and blizzard warning and looks to forage to support the increased energy demands of staying warm. This doesn’t bother Mountain Tapir, who is used to below freezing temperatures at night and sweltering temperatures during the day. Munching on last year’s crowberries, Red Kangaroo spots a strange ungulate in his peripheral vision and raises himself to full height. Looking down upon the strange pig-like creature, Red Kangaroo is feeling twitchy, remembering that feral pigs have chased him away from water holes and eaten small joeys from his group. Red Kangaroo has no patience and begins bounding towards the interloper. Mountain Tapir raises his proboscis to sniff the air to try and identify this strangely locomoting animal. Maybe this creature is all bounce and no bark? Mountain Tapir charges! With the height difference, Red Kangaroo rejects using his short front legs to claw at his opponent’s eyes and instead goes for his signature move – he leans back on his tail, allowing him to use both legs for a double-barreled kick to the face. But Mountain Tapir’s charge was only a bluff, and he stops short! Connecting with nothing but air, Red Kangaroo is caught off-guard and topples, but rights himself quickly.

As they stare at each other, CRACK!!! From upstream, the anchor ice that has accumulated lifts, layers of frozen slush and stacked ice shear off, and the entire accumulation rapidly releases down river! Both combatants pivot their ears towards the sounds coming from upriver. As the ice jam climbs the riverbank 50 feet in less than 10 seconds, Red Kangaroo leaps uphill while Mountain Tapir instinctively runs towards the water to safety, where it is pushed and then crushed by thousands of pounds of ice and frigid water. RED KANGAROO survives Mountain Tapir!!! Narrated by Dr. Anne Hilborn, Dr. Tara Chestnut, & Prof Marc Kissel.

Harpy Eagle (1) v. Saber-Toothed Anchovy (1) – The two #1 seeds from Of Myths & Monsters and Sea Beasties meet up in the last battle of the night. Saber-Toothed Anchovy was only just described in 2020! A far-cry from its small, plankton-eating modern day anchovy relatives, Saber-Toothed Anchovy is large and sports a set of pointy, curved teeth, accented with a single, massive fang. Harpy Eagle flies into this battle, having gotten a few tasty meals in earlier rounds. While many eagles specialize as predators of fish, Harpy Eagle specializes in hunting arboreal mammals – primates make up about 80% of Harpy Eagle’s diet, although they are also known to hunt two species of sloth.

Tonight’s battle is set in the randomly selected habitat of a seagrass meadow! The Isla Escudo de Veraguas of Bocas del Toro, off the coast of Panama, has been separated from the mainland for nearly 9000 years, allowing for the divergent evolution of the pygmy sloth. Due to nutritional limitations and relaxation of predation, pygmy sloths are lighter and shorter due to insular dwarfism, but Harpy Eagle just sees one of her favorite food groups. Hanging on to a tree branch by its back legs and one hook hand and foraging in the red mangroves, the pygmy sloth sees Harpy Eagle heading right for it! Making a quick decision, the sloth releases from the branch and plummets into the ocean water below. Pygmy sloths routinely swim in the salt water between tree stands. Harpy Eagle dives, talons out … and Saber-Toothed Anchovy surges towards the swimming sloth, mouth open wide!

SPLASH!!! THRASH!!! Saber-Toothed Anchovy has only shallowly caught the sloth’s arm because he also caught one of Harpy Eagle’s ankles! The smaller teeth of Saber-Toothed Anchovy’s lower jaw do little damage, and Harpy Eagle uses her other foot to try and grasp both sloth and Saber-Toothed Anchovy. With eyes bigger than her stomach, Harpy Eagle cannot generate enough lift to offset the combined weight, so she attempts to drag them across the surface of the water. Even this is too much, and Harpy Eagle collapses into the water!! The sloth still has some fight left and uses its hook hand to scrape across Saber-Toothed Anchovy’s face, causing him to flail. Saber-Toothed Anchovy is slipping from Harpy Eagle’s grasp, but her 5 inch hallux talon has fully pierced the chambers of Saber-Toothed Anchovy’s heart! Saber-Toothed Anchovy’s mouth goes slack, the sloth is able to slip away, and Harpy Eagle’s other talons are freed – which she uses to immediately further impale the 3-foot fish. Though partially submerged, Harpy Eagle is triumphant and turns to paddle back to shore with her wings. HARPY EAGLE defeats Saber-Toothed Anchovy!!! Narrated by Prof Katie Hinde, Mauna Dasari, & Dr. Alyson Brokaw.

For full SCIENTIFIC DETAILS for each battle, visit the Play-by-Plays linked below!

#2021MMM Elite Trait

Round 4, Elite Trait Results: Saber-Toothed Anchovy, Mountain Tapir, Red Kangaroo, and Harpy Eagle ADVANCE!!!!

Saber-Toothed Anchovy (1) v. Midgardia Seastar (2) Saber-Toothed Anchovy has had a relatively uneventful tournament thus far, but Midgardia Seastar has earned the title of #2021MMM #WorstBear by doing literally nothing but sitting on the ocean floor and waving its arms. Luckily for these two Sea Beasties, tonight’s randomly chosen habitat is a seagrass meadow in the Florida Keys. Midgardia Seastar rests partially on the sandy seabed, still with arms waving, although now its arms are jutting above the waterline as the sun beats down. Saber-Toothed Anchovy is on the prowl, zipping through the seagrass in search of food, when it spots a baby nurse shark. The seagrass meadow acts as a nursery for newborn nurse sharks. In fact, many marine fish that spend most of their lives in coral reefs or the open ocean need mangroves or seagrasses for nurseries at the start of their lives. Baby nurse sharks are less than a foot long but are already well-developed and ready to hunt and fight. Seastars are a tasty snack that don’t fight back. While Midgardia Seastar may have very long arms, they are weak and fragile. CRUNCH! Baby nurse shark amputates one of Midgardia Seastar’s legs. SNAP! SNAP! SNAP! Saber-Toothed Anchovy attacks baby nurse shark, driving both of their bodies into the precariously tilted Midgardia Seastar and breaking multiple arms! The thrashing bodies of Saber-Toothed Anchovy and baby nurse shark roll over Midgardia Seastar and snap off even more arms. Saber-Toothed Anchovy uses its saber-tooth to drive into the shark’s skull! Shattered, Midgardia Seastar is lost and down for the count. SABER-TOOTHED ANCHOVY defeats Midgardia Seastar!!! Narrated by Prof Katie Hinde and Prof Jessica Light.

Dugong (1) v. Mountain Tapir (3) – Both Dugong and Mountain Tapir play important roles in their ecosystems. As we learned in last night’s battles, Mountain Tapir’s vegetarian diet makes it a significant seed disperser (thanks to its digestive tract), and they may have coevolved and coadapted with Andean plants. Some of these plants have no other adaptations for seed dispersal, making Mountain Tapir a keystone species. Dugongs (which are related to, but not actually manatees) have a direct effect on the seagrass they eat and an indirect effect on the other organisms that use the seagrass beds as shelter. Tonight’s randomly decided habitat is the Paramaribo swamp forest of Suriname, but this swamp is in the dry season, leaving shallower water and making animals more vulnerable to predators. Feeling skittish from all the unfamiliar sounds, Mountain Tapir decides to go for a swim – water helps them escape predators, regulate temperatures, and offers some tasty plants to snack on. In this freshwater swamp, Dugong is having a hard time finding any seagrass and begins using the stiff bristles on its lip to feel out potential treats. Instead of treats, Dugong’s whiskers brush up against a strange, spiky log. But logs don’t usually move! This ‘log’ is a spectacled caiman, though luckily not big enough to pose a threat to Dugong. The startled caiman then startles Mountain Tapir, who has been using its proboscis as a snorkel. Now it uses its proboscis as a water canon and sprays water straight at the caiman! Nearby, but oblivious to the action, Dugong hears a noise – perhaps a squeaky wheel underwater? This chirp-squeak belongs to a manatee. Although manatee calls are slightly longer than those of Dugong, this Dugong wonders if another dugong has been transported to this foreign land through magic. Dugong is intrigued enough to swim off in search of a fellow sea cow and doesn’t see Mountain Tapir scramble to the muddy shore and pull itself up to its full height of 0.9 meters (3.6 stoats). At only 64 cm, the caiman is dwarfed and glides along to another resting spot. MOUNTAIN TAPIR outlasts Dugong!!! Narrated by Dr. Brian Tanis, Dr. Alyson Brokaw, and Prof Marc Kissel.

Red Kangaroo (1) v. Red Hartebeest (2) – Neither of the Red, In Fur combatants had much direct contact with competitors in previous rounds – aside from Red Kangaroo slobbering on Southern Red-Backed Vole and Red Hartebeest squashing Red Squirrel with his hooves – so both enter the arena of battle relatively fresh. This battle takes place in a dwarf forest in Southern California, full of stunted, gnarled trees and pyrophytic plants, which have adapted to tolerate or resist the effects of fire. Although the current fire forecast in this area is low, fire plays a critical role in shaping local environments. While global models suggest that we are currently in a period of reduced severity, some areas of the world, including Southern Africa, Eastern Russia, and the Western US, have been trending towards an increase in fire severity. The home habitats of both Red Kangaroo and Red Hartebeest were devasted by fire in 2020. After the magic of MMM transports our combatants to the field of battle with low fire risk, both Red Kangaroo and Red Hartebeest are parched and spot the same ephemeral pool from a recent rainstorm … a staring contest ensues. Red Kangaroo is not aware that #SharingIsCaring and takes a hop towards Red Hartebeest with a snort. Not to be outdone, Red Hartebeest stomps his hooves and shakes his head. Red Kangaroo ups the ante by licking the fur on his upper chest to release a strong smelling and reddish secretion from scent glands, but Red Hartebeest decides that enough is enough and lunges, aiming his curved horns like twin rapiers to stab at his opponent’s chin and throat. Quickly side-stepping the attack, Red Kangaroo delivers a kick that sends Red Hartebeest tumbling to the forest floor! Regaining his footing, Red Hartebeest initiates another stare-down … before turning and galloping away! Without females or home territory to defend, Red Hartebeest escapes the woodlands for the safety of open space. RED KANGAROO defeats Red Hartebeest!!! Narrated by Dr. Tara Chestnut and Prof Patrice Connors.

Harpy Eagle (1) v. Sphinx Monkey (6) – The two titans of the Of Myths & Monsters division meet tonight, both having dealt out some serious carnage in previous rounds. Now, the most powerful rainforest raptor faces off against the largest and heaviest living monkey – in a teeny, tiny forest. This randomly selected dwarf/elfin/pygmy forest is the pygmy forests of Mount Hamiguitan in Silangang Davao in the Philippines, which is home to cousins of both combatants – the Philippine tarsier and the Philippine eagle. Harpy Eagle is already agitated and having a difficult time here, as she is adapted more for moving from tree to tree in a dense rainforest than soaring. Mandrill is confused by all the weird pitcher plants and looks up to see the biggest crowned hawk-eagle he has ever seen! Or at least Mandrill would think it’s a crowned hawk-eagle. Mandrill lets out a loud alarm bark at Harpy Eagle, who – having heard alarm calls of howler monkeys – is not impressed. Though Mandrill is bigger than her usual prey, Harpy Eagle is feeling peckish. Harpy Eagle takes flight as Mandrill charges with exposed canines, trying to take a chunk out of Harpy Eagle’s leg! Pivoting in the air, Harpy Eagle uses her rudder-like tail to avoid the attack and slashes Mandrill’s back with her talons. Mandrill stumbles but does not back down. This isn’t fight or flight – this is Fight vs. Flight! Mandrill springs back up and lunges again, but Harpy Eagle is ready and dive-streaks with talons out. With a leap, Mandrill angles away from Harpy Eagle and into the dense cover of the short trees. The squat branches block Harpy Eagle … but not for long. With a snap, the fragile branches crack, and Harpy Eagle finds a weakness in the canopy. Deciding that discretion is the better part of valor, Mandrill commando-crawls off the field of battle through a dry streambed. HARPY EAGLE terrifies Sphinx Monkey!!! Narrated by Mauna Dasari.

For Full SCIENTIFIC DETAILS for each battle, VISIT THE ARCHIVED PLAY BY PLAYS BELOW!

#2021MMM Sweet Sixteen

Round 3, Sweet Sixteen Results: Midgardia Seastar, Dugong, Red Kangaroo, Red Hartebeest, Saber-Toothed Anchovy, Mountain Tapir, Sphinx Monkey, and Harpy Eagle ADVANCE!!!! 

Sports Summaries by Prof Kate Lesciotto, Sam Houston State University

Midgardia Seastar (2) v. Ammonite (6) – We spend the first part of this battle just trying to figure out what exactly these two combatants are! Seastars are also known as starfish but are not fish. They are echinoderms, and Midgardia Seastar belongs to an order of primarily deep-sea animals. Ammonite is a type of cephalopod, like squid, octopus, and nautilus, with a very distinctive shell. Ammonites are also called snakestone because their fossilized remains resemble a coiled snake turned to stone. In the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, around 760 m below the surface, Midgardia Seastar is raising her arms up for suspension feeding, in which some species use the spines on their arms like velcro to catch prey. At this depth, Ammonite is cold … but not too cold. Near the seafloor, Ammonite is floating just above the waving arms of Midgardia Seastar as it drops lower for a closer look. Midgardia Seastar remains unaware of the descending doom. Other shelled cephalopods, like nautiloids, spend their days between 200-800 m in depth, while internally shelled cephalopods like squid can go much deeper, up to 1900m! This field of battle at 700+ m below the surface is experiencing ~1041 pounds of pressure per square inch. Midgardia Seastar is adapted to this pressure, and Ammonite descends lower and lower. POP!!! Ammonite implodes! With a different shell than nautiloids, Ammonite’s structural integrity maxed out and couldn’t take the crushing pressure. MIDGARDIA SEASTAR outlasts Ammonite!! Narrated by Prof Jessica Light.

Dugong (1) v. Egyptian Fruit Bat (12) – Both Dugong and underdog of the season Egyptian Fruit Bat have sailed through the first two rounds with relative ease and without injury. However, neither experiences a life of ‘relative ease’ in relation to human interactions. Egyptian Fruit Bat populations are vulnerable to subsistence hunting and persecution due to fears of zoonotic disease, while Dugong is threatened by accidental entanglement in mesh fishing nets and pollution. But in the glistening waters of Wali El-Gemal National Park in Egypt, Dugong is busy enjoying another meal of seagrass and leaving a dusty plume of excavated sand in its wake. Flying overhead, Egyptian Fruit Bat is a few hundred kilometers from its home range and becomes disoriented by the bright sunlight and glistening waters of the Red Sea. Trying to dip down for a quick splash of cool water, Egyptian Fruit Bat is thrown off balance by a wave! Flapping his wings in an awkward imitation of a butterfly stroke, Egyptian Fruit Bat tires and begins to sink as it is promptly engulfed in the jaws of a large, 4-meter tiger shark (#GarbageCanOfTheSea)! This tiger shark had been aiming for its preferred prey – Dugong. Dugong lifts its head from the sand just in time to see the gaping maw of the shark as it closes around Egyptian Fruit Bat’s flailing body. With a surprising burst of speed, Dugong turns tail and heads for safer waters. DUGONG out-survives Egyptian Fruit Bat!!! Narrated by Dr. Alyson Brokaw.

Red Kangaroo (1) v. Red Brocket (5)Red Kangaroo may be listed as of “least concern” in terms of conservation but was of great concern to Southern Red-Backed Vole and Red-Crested Tree Rat in previous battles. Peruvian hunters use Red Brocket as an important source of food and income, but this hunting is sustainable – deforestation that has caused habitat loss is more concerning. In the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan, Red Kangaroo is grazing with his ‘mob’ of other kangaroos in an area with few shrubs, which can pose a tripping hazard. Without these shrubs for cover, Red Kangaroo quickly spots Red Brocket and efficiently hops over to investigate. Red Brocket freezes, hoping to go unnoticed by this terrifying new creature. As Red Kangaroo continues his approach and stomps the ground, Red Brocket realizes that today is not the day to make a stand and leaps away towards an escape. RED KANGAROO chases off Red Brocket!!! Narrated by Prof Marc Kissel.

Red Hartebeest (2) v. Bay Cat (3) – Another set of animals has eased through the first two rounds, but both Red Hartebeest and Bay Cat have their own concerns. Endangered Bay Cat has to deal with the threat of their home habitat being converted to palm oil plantations, and Red Hartebeest is luckily rebounding after populations were driven down by hunting. But tonight, Red Hartebeest is relaxing in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in South Africa when he spots a hungry cheetah. This cheetah is young, though, and known for trying to take on inappropriately sized prey. As Red Hartebeest squares up and stares down the cheetah, the feline decides not to tangle with those horns and runs off. Red Hartebeest returns to his termite mound but is now being stalked by Bay Cat. Although Bay Cat takes the time for appropriate recon, he ultimately decides that maybe this wouldn’t be a good battle. As Bay Cay tries to slink away, Red Hartebeest spots it! Thinking it might be the cheetah back for another round, Red Hartebeest starts snorting and tossing its horns in classic aggressive behavior. Bay Cat turns tail and quickly runs away from the field of battle (#CatScandal). RED HARTEBEEST chases off Bay Cat!!! Narrated by Dr. Asia Murphy & Dr. Anne Hilborn.

Saber-Toothed Anchovy (1) v. Vampire Squid (5) – After escaping from Basket Star and Black Dragonfish, Vampire Squid finds itself in the warm, shallow waters off the coast of what will become Pakistan, as Saber-Toothed Anchovy is on patrol. Adapted to the cold and dark of the deep sea, Vampire Squid is in a horrifying (to it) new world of new smells and bright light. Its large eyes – 1 inch eyes on a 6 inch creature – make this light quite painful! However, the blinding light is only the beginning of Vampire Squid’s problems, as it has a body adapted to the pressures of the deep sea, and these shallow waters are causing rapid depressurization. Murky waters from a recent rain are the only saving grace to help hide Vampire Squid. Saber-Toothed Anchovy isn’t bothered by murky waters. It has an air bladder for maintaining optimal buoyancy that extends into its skull where it is hypothesized to act as a subwoofer to collect and magnify low sounds … including the ultrasound noises of thrashing prey. A blinded Vampire Squid is in the throes of pain as its organs expand with no support, and it comes as a mercy when Saber-Toothed Anchovy uses its eponymous dentition. The murky water takes on a sheen of red, and a silver flash of scales is the only evidence left. SABER-TOOTHED ANCHOVY defeats Vampire Squid!!! Narrated by Prof Josh Drew.

Red Wolf (2) v. Mountain Tapir (3) – The tricksy taxonomy of Red Wolf will likely not be resolved until the genomes of ancient red wolves are analyzed – current populations show high proportions of coyote gene flow. Mountain Tapir has some of its own tricksy taxonomy tucked up its odd-toed ungulate sleeve, with some unique trypanosome parasites that have mysterious intermediate hosts (Ticks? Leeches? Who knows!). Although not its actual habitat, Mountain Tapir is feeling right at home in the hilly grasslands and shrublands of the southeastern corner of North America during the 13th century, when Red Wolf lived among the Cherokee people. Mountain Tapir starts nom-noming on some leafy greens, but this isn’t gratuitous #PlantCarnage. The digestive tract aids in the germination of many plant seeds, and Mountain Tapir is thought to be an important seed disperser. A strange smell on the wind causes Mountain Tapir to raise its proboscis … canid predators are somewhere nearby. Spring can be difficult, with new vegetation making it harder to track prey, but Red Wolf has caught the scent of something and moves in! Mountain Tapir tries to escape by sliding down a hill on its rump, a behavior that reportedly wears the fur away and leaves bare patches of skin on their behinds. Red Wolf is hungry and in hot pursuit! With nowhere left to go, Mountain Tapir falls back on its signature move against bush dogs: stomp the floor and make frequent loud whistles. Used to eating much smaller mammals than Mountain Tapir, Red Wolf decides that this loud and odd looking animal could actually do some damage in a fight and moves on in search of more familiar prey. MOUNTAIN TAPIR defeats Red Wolf!!! Narrated by Prof Patrice Connors & Dr. Brian Tanis.

Sphinx Monkey (6) v. Blue-Capped Ifrit (7) – These combatants enter the Sweet Sixteen with a few meals under their belts – Sphinx Monkey brutally devoured Bush Squirrel in Round 1, and Blue-Capped Ifrit got a snack of Crypt-Keeper Wasp in Round 2. Sometimes Sphinx Monkey (aka Mandrill) find itself being a meal for humans, meaning that conservationists must work with resident communities to find sustainable alternatives to game hunting. The batrachotoxins in Blue-Capped Ifrit's skin and feathers can cause numbness, tingling, and sneezing in humans, meaning that humans typically only interact indirectly with these birds. In Mandrill’s home habitat of the Lékédi Park in Southern Gabon, Blue-Capped Ifrit spots a large congregation of unfamiliar creatures with resplendent colors, including a face of fine blue, with the ridge and tip of the nose a brilliant red. While Mandrill sits and forages with his troop, Blue-Capped Ifrit spies a beetle scrambling through the leaf litter and snatches it. Blue-Capped Ifrit’s beak crushes the beetle’s exoskeleton but drops the beetle in surprise as he is grabbed from behind! Trying to fly away is futile, as Mandrill has a firm grip and uses its great canines to deliver a craniocervical killing bite. PTHW-WHTTT! Mandrill spits out feathers and pieces of skull as he feels the immediate effect of the batrachotoxins. Luckily, toxin levels are lower in the head feathers, but Mandrill still spits out the remainder of Blue-Capped Ifrit and returns to forage on safer fruits. SPHINX MONKEY dispatches Blue-Capped Ifrit!!! Narrated by Dr. Lara Durgavich.

Harpy Eagle (1) v. Devil Frog (5) – Although listed as “Near Threatened,” Harpy Eagle populations have managed to maintain a high level of genetic diversity, suggesting a conservation strategy that focuses on multiple diverse local populations, rather than any single existing population. Devil Frog is about 65-70 million years away from its home habitat. Through comparisons with living relatives, such as South American horned frogs, scientists have inferred that the bite force of Devil Frog may overlap with the bite force range of hyenas and even exceeds that of coyotes! That bite force may not be the only trait on display in tonight’s battle in Tambopata National Reserve in Peru. As Devil Frog walks (having legs that were likely too short to hop), it snaps a twig and draws the attention of Harpy Eagle. Smaller gray feathers along a facial disk may focus sound waves and improve Harpy Eagle’s hearing. Mistaking Devil Frog for its more typical iguana prey, Harpy Eagle strikes but is repelled by Devil Frog’s spiked and armored back – no surprise, since beachball-sized Devil Frog’s armor-like plates are believed to have fended off crocodile and dinosaur attacks. Devil Frog snaps at Harpy Eagle in a counterattack but misses! The miss causes Devil Frog to get off-balance, and it trips over a log. With Devil Frog’s soft underbelly now exposed, Harpy Eagle uses its 5-inch talons to slice open the amphibian. HARPY EAGLE defeats Devil Frog!! Narrated by Prof Chris Anderson.

#2021MMM Round 2

Round 2, Of Myths & Monsters & Sea Beasties Results: Saber-Toothed Anchovy, Devil Frog, Blue-Capped Ifrit, Midgardia Seastar, Ammonite, Vampire Squid, Harpy Eagle, and Sphinx Monkey ADVANCE!!!!

Sports Summaries by Prof Kate Lesciotto, Sam Houston State University

Saber-Toothed Anchovy (1) v. Pink Vent Fish (8) – Round 1 saw Saber-Toothed Anchovy sending Planktonic Copepod adrift and Pink Vent Fish eating Lathe Acteon snail. Tonight’s first marine battle takes place 47 million years ago (Eocene Epoch of Cenozoic Era) in an ancient sea over modern-day Pakistan. Even though oxygen levels at shallower depths are relatively low, Pink Vent Fish is breathing just fine with its amped up hemoglobin that has a super-high affinity for oxygen. But Pink Vent Fish is used to deep-sea hydrothermal vents and now finds itself out in the open ocean (pelagic) without any rocks or tube works to hide behind! Lacking a lateral line (sensory system found in most fish), Pink Vent Fish is unable to sense a subtle change in water movement and is blind-sided as Saber-Toothed Anchovy launches an ambush! SABER-TOOTHED ANCHOVY (def)eats Pink Vent Fish!!! Narrated by Prof Patrice Connors.

Picado’s Jumping Pitviper (4) v. Devil Frog (5) – The namesake of the genus for Picado’s Jumping Pitviper (Atropoides) is Atropos, featured in the poem Shield of Heracles, with fitting descriptions for a pitviper, such as “teeth are bright-white like those of Fear.” This sit-and-wait predator does have a horrific method of killing its typically mammalian prey – injecting venom made of enzymes that break down proteins. However, Devil Frog is not a mammal. In the cloud forest of Parque Nacional Los Quetzales, a national park in Costa Rica, Devil Frog finds itself along a stream edge and sits in a depression next to an animal track. And waits – Devil Frog is a sit-and-wait predator. While waiting, Devil Frog takes in the many scents of unfamiliar prey, because in Devil Frog’s time, mammals did not yet exist! Used to preying on tasty small mammals in modern times and the current habitat, Picado’s Jumping Pitviper slowly slithers along the streambank and uses its tongue to ‘smell’ the environment and search for prey. Settling within striking distance of Devil Frog, Picado’s Jumping Pitviper also follows a sit-and-wait strategy. As Devil Frog sizes up the snake and decides that it might be too much to handle, Picado’s Jumping Pitviper picks up the scent of a mammal and follows the scent off the field of battle. DEVIL FROG out-sits Picado’s Jumping Pitviper!!! Narrated by Dr. Tara Chestnut.

Blue-Capped Ifrit (7) v. Crypt-Keeper Wasp (15)Blue-Capped Ifrit may have some beetles to thank for its win over Brussels Griffon in Round 1 due to the batrachotoxins on its feathers. Blue-Capped Ifrit does not produce its own toxins, but rather acquires toxins through its diet, possibly from beetles in the genus Choresine. The battle with underdog Crypt-Keeper Wasp begins in the Madang Province of Papua New Guinea near the village of Simbai, where Blue-Capped Ifrit has camouflaged its nest with moss and liverworts, although the nest itself is made of plant fibers and feathers. Crypt-Keeper Wasp is looking for a gall to oviposit in and saunters along a liverwort until it starts to brush up against the outside of the Blue-Capped Ifrit nest. As it touches the batrachotoxin-laced feathers on the nest, Crypt-Keeper Wasp starts to not feel so great. Batrachotoxins can affect nearly every animal that contains voltage-dependent sodium channels, including distantly related arthropods. As the feeling of discomfort grows, Crypt-Keeper Wasp flees the field of battle. BLUE-CAPPED IFRIT repels Crypt-Keeper Wasp!!! Narrated by Prof Chris Anderson.

Midgardia Seastar (2) v. Yeti Crab (15) – This battle’s top-seed – Midgardia Seastar – is an elusive species of the deep sea, with only 20 specimens in natural history collections. Yeti Crab is another deep-sea resident, preferring the dark but warm waters that surround hydrothermal vents. Midgardia Seastar is sitting along the seafloor, about 512 m deep off the coast of Texas in the Gulf Coast, where an actual specimen has been collected. With a small mouth and a lack of food in the digestive track of collected specimens, scientists have hypothesized that Midgardia Seastar does not feed directly, but instead absorbs nutrients through its general body tissues. Yeti Crab is approximately 7300 km away in the Annie’s Anthill vent site in the Pacific Ocean, waving her claws through the water near a vent to circulate more of the methane and hydrogen sulfide gasses to help the bacteria growing on her setae. A magic MMM portal opens up next to Yeti Crab … through the portal in the Gulf of Mexico, Midgardia Seastar waves its arms in the current, each thin arm ending in a plate armed with small spines that looks like a tiny cat’s paw with extended claws. Deciding that its own bacteria farming activities are just too important, Yeti Crab steps away from the portal and elects not to enter the field of battle. MIDGARDIA SEASTAR outlasts Yeti Crab!!! Narrated by Prof Jessica Light.

Platyzilla (3) v. Ammonite (6)Platyzilla’s scientific name (O. tharalkooschild) pays homage to the Indigenous Australian dreamtime origin story about a duck named Tharalkoo. Ignoring the advice of elders, Tharalkoo explored upriver and #YadaYadaYada which lead to the origin of the first platypus being the offspring of a male water rate and a female duck. Ammonite is another extinct combatant in #2021MMM, belonging to a group of shelled cephalods. However, Ammonite is only found in its last chamber – the other chambers are filled with liquid and gas to control buoyancy and maintain orientation in the water. These extinct Sea Beasties find themselves 10 million years ago in what is now Riversleigh, Australia, as Platyzilla uses electric receptors on its bill to sense prey in the water. Ammonite notices a large animal swimming right towards it and spins vertically! The adult orientation of its shell spirals is not suited to horizontal movement. CRUNCH!! Platyzilla bites Ammonite! But Platyzilla bites the wrong end and ends up with a mouth full of the hard calcium carbonite shell and a broken tooth. Platyzilla’s teeth are adapted for crushing, but mostly for softer foods like insect larvae and small vertebrates like frogs. Knowing the value of its teeth and not wanting to risk them further, Platyzilla swims off to find more easily masticated prey. AMMONITE survives Platyzilla!!! Narrated by Dr. Brian Tanis.

Black Dragonfish (4) v. Vampire Squid (5) – Both adapted to the cold, deep waters of the ocean, home habitat advantage might not actually give Vampire Squid much of an advantage tonight. Each combatant enters the field of battle with hungry bellies. While Vampire Squid eats mostly detritus, Black Dragonfish craves living flesh. As Vampire Squid floats horizontally using eyes and tentacles to find its next meal, Black Dragonfish fires up its photophores to bathe Vampire Squid in near infra-red light. Researchers aren’t sure whether Vampire Squid can actually see this light, but most of Black Dragonfish’s usual prey can’t see this wavelength, which is rare at this depth, rending them unaware of the dangers it brings. As Vampire Squid’s tentacles brush up against something, Black Dragonfish strikes, and Vampire Squid flips out! Literally – Vampire Squid is able to turn inside out, exposing a black inner mantle lined with sharp cirri in a ‘spiky pineapple’ form. Although this has become a super-sized meal, Black Dragonfish is not deterred and has its own morphological malarky. Like other members of its phylogenetic family, Black Dragonfish has a bit of free-floating spinal column that allows it to crank its head back and open its mouth even wider. The gaping maw of Black Dragonfish aims toward Vampire Squid, but Vampire Squid has one last trick – it fires a series of photophores on the tips of its arms! The sudden flaring of light distracts Black Dragonfish, who is only able to get a mouthful of tentacles but leaves the vital bits of Vampire Squid intact. Black Dragonfish swims back to the depths with a belly full of calamari, leaving Vampire Squid victorious … but damaged. VAMPIRE SQUID defeats Black Dragonfish!!! Narrated by Prof Josh Drew.

Harpy Eagle (1) v. Ghost Bat (8) Harpy Eagle may be the “QUEEN of the jungle” avian predator, but they take a more hands-off approach to teaching their young about hunting. Rather than directly teaching their young, Harpy Eagles slowly stop provisioning them with food, forcing juveniles to figure it out on their own. Ghost Bat isn’t typically on the menu – although Ghost Bat has no known natural predators, their populations are still on the decline, likely due to roost disturbance, habitat loss, and invasive species. Still enjoying home-habitat advantage, Harpy Eagle makes its way through the forest in Tambopata National Reserve in southeastern Peru and spies a tayra (solitary omnivorous animal from the weasel family). The tayra has found a ripe hog plum tree. In an unfamiliar environment, Ghost Bat has been searching for a cave to rest in but now settles for the pointy green leaves of the very same hog plum tree. The tayra catches the new scent of Ghost Bat and deftly climbs the tree. Ghost Bat stretches its wings to take off, but the tayra closes the distance with a quick horizontal bound across the tree branch. Before Ghost Bat can extend its wings, the tayra swipes and pins Ghost Bat, snapping wing bones. Just as the tayra is about to the make the final, death-dealing bite – THRUNK!! Harpy Eagle’s talons sink into the tayra’s torso! The trio struggles and slips from the branch, but Harpy Eagle’s massive wings quickly catch flight as her talons sink deeper into the tayra. As Harpy Eagle gains altitude, the tayra’s eyes dim and jaw goes slack, and the broken-winged Ghost Bat tumbles back through the canopy to the forest floor. HARPY EAGLE defeats Ghost Bat!!! Narrated by Dr. Alyson Brokaw.

Chimpanzee (3) v. Mandrill (6) – In our final battle of the evening, two primates in their prime are set to do battle. Both Chimpanzee and Mandrill are social primates. Male chimpanzees spend their entire lives in the community to which they are born, while male sphinx monkeys are more likely to be peripheral to groups or even live alone. No home-court advantage, as tonight’s primate showdown takes place in Lopé National Park in central Gabon in a 9-ha ‘island’ of forest in which Chimpanzee and Mandrill are sympatric! A lone male Mandrill is foraging on the forest floor, while our adult male Chimpanzee arrives accompanied by a subadult male. Chimpanzees routinely hunt monkeys and are known to crush the skull and go for the brain – a large, nutrient dense source of energy. However, this type of hunting would require multiple adult males in order to be successful. Our two primates engage in an aggressive staring contest that is broken when Chimpanzee coughs. After being bitten by White-Winged Vampire Bat in Round 1, has there been zoonotic disease transmission?? Chimpanzee coughs up a fig chunk – no sign of disease. Recognizing Mandrill has larger and sharper canines, Chimpanzee decides to instead climb a tree into the nest of a crowned hawk-eagle, perhaps to steal fledglings or eggs. Crowned hawk-eagle fights back, striking the back of Chimpanzee’s head with its beak, and Chimpanzee quickly descends to the ground. Chimpanzee and his subadult friend move away from the eagle tree and away from the field of battle as Mandrill calmly watches. MANDRILL outlasts Chimpanzee!!! Narrated by Prof Katie Hinde.

ANNOUNCEMENT: TOMORROW March 19th at 11AM EDT, join American Museum of Natural History scientists as they guide a LIVE virtual tour of MAMMAL EXHIBITS at the AMNH! 

Round 2, Tricksy Taxonomy & Red, in Fur Results: Red Kangaroo, Mountain Tapir, Egyptian Fruit Bat, Red Hartebeest, Red Wolf, Dugong, Bay Cat, and Red Brocket ADVANCE!!!!

Sports Summaries by Prof Kate Lesciotto, Sam Houston State University

Red Kangaroo (1) v. Red Crested Tree Rat (8) – After winning their respective battles by slobbering and boxing, Red Kangaroo and Red Crested Tree Rat find themselves in Judbarra National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory. Red Kangaroo is again enjoying home-habitat advantage and begins grazing on the desert shrubbery as the sun sets and temperatures begin to cool. Red Crested Tree Rat is not a fan of this semi-arid desert but is enticed by some nearby Calomymex ants to begin foraging. Feeling something brush against its tail, Red Kangaroo looks down to see the much smaller Red Crested Tree Rat. Red Crested Tree Rat brings itself up to its full standing height, chest puffed and ready to defend its foraging ground… until it sees Red Kangaroo glaring down at it from 4 ft above. Red Crested Tree Rat channels its inner rodent and runs away from the larger threat. RED KANGAROO intimidates Red Crested Tree Rat!!! Narrated by Prof Patrice Connors

Mountain Tapir (3) v. Jaguarundi (6) – Both Mountain Tapir and Jaguarundi have interesting activity patterns, with Mountain Tapir being active any time of day, unlike other tapir species that are mostly nocturnal, and Jaguarundi being diurnal and therefore easier to see than other felid species. Our combatants meet in the Sangay National Park in Ecuador. Although not its preferred habitat, Jaguarundi is a habitat generalist and is not disturbed by the unfamiliar location. As Mountain Tapir uses its bristly proboscis to find some tasty greens, its keen sense of smell picks up the scent of a feline predator. Jaguars are frequent predators, and Mountain Tapir is on guard. Nearby, Jaguarundi is also sniffing the air – he detects the rich base notes of tapir but is more interested in the ocelot latrine at the base of a tree. The strong scent indicates that an ocelot has been here very recently. Knowing the ocelots are twice his size and known for intraspecific competition, Jaguarundi decides it would be better to exit the field of battle. Satisfied that there are no jaguars around, Mountain Tapir continues to munch away at the local plants. MOUNTAIN TAPIR ignores Jaguarundi!!! Narrated by Dr. Anne Hilborn & Dr. Brian Tanis

Egyptian Fruit Bat (12) v. Solenodon (13) – Two underdog titans meet in this battle – Solendon avoided being a treat for Malagasy Striped Civet, and Egyptian Fruit Bat outlasted the socially-motivated Kinda Baboon. Egyptian Fruit Bat most likely reacquired the ability to echolocate that was lost at some point in its ancestry, but instead of using pulses from their larynx, they use tongue clicks for lingual echolocation to locate land and detect large objects. Not to be outdone, Solendon is also able to echolocate! Solenodon also uses a click form of echolocation for orientation in the dark. In tonight’s battle, Egyptian Fruit Bat emerges from his cave to forage in the Mount Carmel Biosphere Reserve in Israel to feed on a variety of fruits, while Solenodon finds itself beneath some fig trees on the slopes of Mt Carmel. Egyptian Fruit Bat lands in the tree and plucks some nearby figs. Eyeing his haul, a female Egyptian Fruit Bat snatches one away as they scramble over this delicious meal. Their scrambling dislodges ripe figs from the branches, which start to rain down on Solendon, who is not pleased by the resulting squishy, sticky mess. Combined with the high-pitched squabbling of the bats above, Solenodon decides to find a more peaceful place to hunt and zigzags away from the field of battle. EGYPTIAN FRUIT BAT drives away Solenodon!!! Narrated by Dr. Alyson Brokaw

Red Hartebeest (2) v. Red Ruffed Lemur (7) – The fully terrestrial Red Hartebeest, found in grazing herds of up to 300, faces off against the primarily arboreal Red Ruffed Lemur in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, in Mkambati Nature Reserve. Lemurs were outcompeted by monkeys on the mainland of Africa, which is why they are only found in Madagascar. Finding herself on the outskirts of the hartebeest herd, Red Ruffed Lemur keeps her eyes on the large horns of Red Hartebeest and begins to sidle towards a nearby stand of trees. Red Hartebeest doesn’t view Red Ruffed Lemur as a threat, but nevertheless pauses to mark his territory with a fresh pile of dung. Red Ruff Lemur deposits her own stinky secretions by using her glands to deposit scent-marks on a tree to mark territorial boundaries and convey information about biological sex and age. Hearing unexpected calls from above, Red Ruffed Lemur looks up to see a troop of vervet monkeys, grunting and giving alarm calls. Realizing these trees are already occupied, Red Ruffed Lemur quickly departs, moving further away from Red Hartebeest and his herd as evolutionary history repeats itself! RED HARTEBEEST displaces Red Ruffed Lemur!! Narrated by Dr. Lara Durgavich

Red Wolf (2) v. Tarsier (7) – Although tricksy to determine whether Red Wolf is an ancient species or more recent hybrid with coyotes, mitochondrial DNA analyses show that the red wolf haplotype clusters among coyote haplotypes rather than grey wolf, but the sample size was small. Tarsier’s tricksy taxonomy has been investigated through nuclear DNA, which shows that tarsiers group with monkeys and apes and is therefore part of Haplorrhinii (monkeys & apes) rather than Prosimians (lemurs & lorises). Deep in the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge of southeast Louisiana, Tarsier is feeling a bit cold but is more perturbed by the lack of large trees to provide cover among the canopy. Scurrying in the tall grasses, Tarsier finds a nutria (aka swamp rat) burrow and hunkers down to wait for nightfall. Red Wolf and its pack are on a usual patrol when the scent of an unfamiliar animal causes them to deviate and approach the burrow to investigate. As Red Wolf approaches, Tarsier’s fight-or-flight instinct kicks in! Using all of its energy, Tarsier takes off in a leaping movement to relocate to another nutria burrow away from the field of battle. RED WOLF defeats Tarsier!!! Narrated by Dr. Tara Chestnut & Prof Anne Stone

Dugong (1) v. Musk Deer (8) – Both combatants enter tonight’s battle with one thing in common – tusks! Dugong tusks are elongated second incisors, similar to elephant tusks, and are found in all adult males and mature females. Musk Deer’s vampire-like tusks are found in males and range from 7-10 cm in length! Despite these fearsome tusks, Musk Deer populations have declined, partially due to high demand for the musk produced by males to attract mates. As these tusked combatants meet on the field of battle in the Great Barrier Reef along an inner reef not too far from shore, Dugong happily uses his tusks to scrape vegetation off the sea floor. Feeding is the main activity for dugongs, which need to eat up to 70 lbs of sea grass a day. Musk Deer, with hooves adapted for walking on steep ground and climbing slanted trees, is much less happy in this marine environment. Dugong angles his tusks upward, spotting the swimming artiodactyl just above him, and Musk Deer directs his head and tusks downward to notice the dark shape moving in the waters beneath. Deciding that it would be the better part of valor to avoid a fight, Musk Deer swims towards land through the salty, SALTY (crocodile) infested waters to the mainland. DUGONG outlasts Musk Deer!!! Narrated by Prof Jessica Light & Prof Marc Kissel

Bay Cat (3) v. Red Fox (6) – It’s a cat versus dog(ish) battle tonight! Bay Cat shares its rainforest home with four other cat species, which may be reason why it is so elusive and rarely seen. Red Fox is no stranger to coming up against cats – across the world, Red Foxes are killed by bobcats and two species of lynx. In tonight’s battle, Bay Cat has home habitat advantage in the Batang Ai-Lanjak-Entimau complex in the Bornean rainforest, but Red Fox has a 3kg (~14 stoat) weight advantage. Both combatants dealt some serious carnage in Round 1 and are looking for a place to sleep off even more recent meals. Bay Cat is resting in a cool, shady den under a tree root embankment, while Red Fox snuffles its way to Bay Cat’s doorstep. Red Fox isn’t particularly interested in this cat but does like the look of this nice resting spot. Bay Cat stands up, arches his back, and growls at Red Fox. This Red Fox is from Walnut Creek, California, and knows that even the bravest of its home turf cats would rather run that fight him. Bolstered with confidence, Red Fox creeps forward to press his size advantage … and receives a slash from Bay Cat’s claws across the nose! Red Fox jumps back but quickly rushes in again, baring his gleaming teeth. Bay Cat refuses to back down and delivers a lightening fast one-two-three strike to Red Fox’s muzzle! Bay Cat charges and strikes again, and Red Fox runs off the field of battle. BAY CAT runs off Red Fox!!! Narrated by Dr. Asia Murphy & Kwasi Wrensford, PhD

Maroon Langur (4) v. Red Brocket (5) – These two combatants could each deal some serious #PlantCarnage – Red Brocket is a true ruminant with a four-chambered stomach that allows fluid washing and microbial fermentation for plant matter digestion, and Maroon Langur is a foregut fermenter with adaptations to digest a fiber-heavy herbivorous diet. However, they are not fighting plants tonight. In the peat swamp Sebangau Forest, Central Kalimantan of Indonesian Borneo, a uni-male, multi-female group of langurs with several infants and juveniles has come to the area to forage. Two female langurs have found a delicious patch of mushrooms, and our male Maroon Langur has gorged on ripe fruit and is resting nearby. Red Brocket enters the arena, at first going completely unnoticed by the langur group. However, Red Brocket is a fan of fungi and takes a shortcut to mushrooms directly through the group of playing primates. A cacophony of alarm calls erupts as the young langurs rush towards their mothers. Maroon Langur rouses from his rest to lead the group a short distance away from Red Brocket before looking back. However, this “short distance away” is officially off the field of battle. RED BROCKET rousts Maroon Langur!! Narrated by Prof Katie Hinde

#2021MMM Round 1

Round 1, OF MYTHS & MONSTERS Results: Harpy Eagle, Picado’s Jumping Pitviper, Devil Frog, Cryptkeeper Wasp, Ghost Bat, Blue-Capped Ifrit, Sphinx Monkey, and Chimpanzee ADVANCE!!!! 

Sports Summaries by Prof Kate Lesciotto, Sam Houston State University

Harpy Eagle (1) v. Goliath Beetle (16) Harpy Eagle is named after the harpies of Greek Mythology – winged women that represented a form of wind and were associated with storms and disaster. Female Harpy Eagles are the heaviest, most power eagle living on the planet today – a true apex predator that specializes in arboreal mammalian prey. Not to be outdone, Goliath Beetle is immensely large … for a scarab beetle. At nearly 5 inches long, Goliath Beetle is still the heavy underdog in this battle. In the Kanuku Mountains Protected Area of Guyana, Goliath Beetle is transported by MMM magic to the edge of Harpy Eagle’s nest. This nest is a massive construction, at 4 feet in diameter and 2 feet deep, and contains the rotting flesh of unfinished carcasses of previous Harpy Eagle meals. Goliath Beetle prefers high-sugar fruit or sap. As it opens its wings to take flight, strong air currents disrupt the attempt. Goliath Beetle scrambles out of the nest and pauses on the adjoining tree branch, just as Harpy Eagle lands. With no interest in invertebrate meals, Harpy Eagle doesn’t even notice as her talons impale Goliath Beetle. HARPY EAGLE impales Goliath Beetle!! Narrated by Prof Katie Hinde.

Picado’s Jumping Pitviper (4) v. Flying Dragon Lizard (13) – Named for a Costa Rican scientist who extensively researched venom (Clodomiro Picado Twight), Picado’s Jumping Pitviper also has an interesting genus name. The genus Atroides is named for one of the three Fates in Greet mythology. Clotho spun the ‘thread’ of human fate, Lachesis dispensed it, and Atropos cut the thread, thus determining the individual’s moment of death. Flying Dragon Lizard’s name is bit of a misnomer, as this lizard doesn’t actually fly but uses its ribcage, expanded into wing-like structures, to glide an average of 8 meters between trees! In the Braulio Carrillo National Park in Costa Rica, Picado’s Jumping Pitviper has curled up by a small log, a favored ambush spot, and is camouflaged by the leafy forest floor. Preferring not to be out and about at night in this cooler forest, Flying Dragon Lizard heads for the trees for safety. Picado’s Jumping Pitviper picks up the vibrations of Flying Dragon Lizard’s feet rustling in the fallen leaves and turns her head. Flying Dragon Lizard steps onto Picado’s Jumping Pitviper, claws scratching at the snake’s skin. Picado’s Jumping Pitviper strikes! Clasping Flying Dragon Lizard in her jaws, Picado’s Jumping Pitviper continues to pump venom as Flying Dragon Lizard grows weaker. PICADO’S JUMPING PITVIPER cuts the thread of Flying Dragon Lizard’s life!!! Narrated by Dr. Anne Hilborn & Prof Jessica Light

Devil Frog (5) v. Fire Salamander (12) – The battle of the amphibians begins! Both Devil Frog and Fire Salamander are predators but are “gape-limited,” meaning that they can only eat prey as big as their mouths open. Fire Salamanders are also sexually dimorphic, with females being up to 12% larger than males. The scientific name for Devil Frog, a large and heavily armored extinct frog, is Beelzebufo ampinga, with Beelzebufo being a portmanteau of Beelzebub (alter ego of the Christian Devil) and bufo (Latin for ‘toad’). The home court of Devil Frog for tonight’s battle is the northwest coast of Madagascar during the Late Cretaceous – a cooler and wetter climate than today, which Fire Salamander is quite comfortable with. Both amphibians find themselves on the edge of a pond, with Devil Frog burrowed comfortably in the sand to regulate body temperature and Fire Salamander trotting to find cover. Before Fire Salamander can react, Devil Frog extends it tongue, wraps it around Fire Salamander’s entire body, and rolls the tasty package into its mouth and belly. DEVIL FROG consumes Fire Salamander!!! Narrated by Dr. Tara Chestnut

Masrasector nananubis (2) v. Crypt-Keeper Wasp (15) Masrasector nananubis, with a species name meaning “little Anubis” after the jackal-headed Egyptian god of embalming, belongs to a group of extinct predators known as Hyaenodonts. This group got its name not because they looked like hyenas but because their teeth are similar to hyena teeth. The species name for Crypt-Keeper Wasp is set, after the Egyptian god Set, who locked his brother in a crypt. Crypt-Keeper Wasp lays its eggs on the larva of gall wasps, before it will eventually chew through the head of the other wasp and fly off. Our Crypt-Keeper Wasp finds itself in an Egyptian desert – except it’s 3.4 million years ago, and this desert is actually a swamp similar to the Everglades. Among the many animals in this swamp, Masrasector nananubis is hunting a saghatherium – an herbivorous hyrax. Crypt-Keeper Wasp ignores everything, focused on finding a gall wasp larva to lay eggs in. Nearby are Wadilemur elegans, an early lemur ancestor, which watch as both Masrasector nananubis and Crypt-Keeper Wasp converge on their tree. Wadilemur lets out a series of high-pitched alarm squeals, the cacophony of which causes saghatherium to bolt away, with Masrasector nananubis in hot pursuit – both run off the field of battle! CRYPT-KEEPER WASP outlasts Masrasector nananubis!!! Narrated by Prof Marc Kissel & Prof Chris Anderson

Ghost Bat (8) v. Thorny Devil (9) – Although this is March Mammal Madness, Ghost Bat may very well be taking part in a Most Beautiful Mammal competition with its silky, pale white fur and sharp, pointy smile. Being primarily carnivorous, Ghost Bat is capable of lifting prey items up to 80% of their bodyweight, thanks to a half-meter wingspan. However, sometimes Ghost Bat can bite off more than it can chew – the invasive cane toad, which secretes toxins, may be playing a role in recent bat declines. Thorny Devil may not have the classic good looks of Ghost Bat, but that thorny skin readily absorbs water, making it quite handy for staying hydrated in its desert habitat. In Karijini National Park in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, Ghost Bat emerges from its cave roost. Thorny Devil, positioned next to an ant trail in the sandy soils just below, decides that it is time to head to its nighttime burrow. PLOP!! Ghost Bat follows faint scuffling sounds to the source – Thorny Devil has gotten stuck in a large, PVC pipe pitfall trap! These traps are often used to survey small terrestrial fauna. Curling its head between its legs, Thorny Devil tries to fool Ghost Bat by exposing the soft “false head” at the base of its neck – but the tactic backfires as Ghost Bat pins down Thorny Devil and delivers a deep bite, severing the spinal cord. GHOST BAT decapitates Thorny Devil!!! Narrated by Dr. Alyson Brokaw

Blue-Capped Ifrit (7) v. Brussels Griffon (10) – With the name ‘ifrit’ having its origins in Arabic, the Blue-Capped Ifrit is named after an unseen djinn (spirit, angel, ghost, demon) that is tricksy with typically malevolent intent. Quite a bit smaller than the mythical gryphon (beast with a body, tail, and hind legs of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle), Brussels Griffon is a domesticated dog breed that was originally bred to hunt rats and is now known for respiratory troubles due to its short snout and broad face (known as brachycephalic). In the high elevations of Lorentz National Park, the largest protected area in Southeast Asia, Brussels Griffon is already breathing more rapidly and loudly in the lower oxygen levels. But something bright catches Brussels Griffon’s eye – a Blue-Capped Ifrit nest just 3-6 ft off the ground. Brussels Griffon climbs the narrow trunk to the nest and snarfs on Blue-Capped Ifrit! But attempted predation barely lasts a moment, as Blue-Capped Ifrit’s feathers contain batrachotoxins, which can cause paralysis in small doses! As its muscles stiffen, Brussels Griffon loses balance, falling from the tree, still grasping Blue-Capped Ifrit in its mouth. The impact with the ground pops the uninjured Blue-Capped Ifrit from Brussels Griffon’s mouth, and Brussels Griffon’s eyeball from its brachycephalic eye socket!!! Doggo manages to run off the field of battle. BLUE-CAPPED IFRIT stuns Brussels Griffon!!! Narrated by Prof Patrice Connors & Katie Hinde

Sphinx Monkey (6) v. Black & Red Bush Squirrel (11) Sphinx Monkey, also known as a mandrill, is named after the wise mythical creature with the body of a lion, wings of an eagle, and head of a person. The very real Sphinx Monkey is a very sexually dimorphic species, with males being over 3 times larger than females! The species name for Black & Red Bush Squirrel is ‘lucifer,’ which means ‘light bringer’ or ‘morning star’ in Latin but is often used in English as the original fallen angel in the Hebrew and Christian bibles (i.e., the Devil). This seems just a tad dramatic for a bush squirrel that is the size of a chunky stoat. In the tropical rainforest of Lopé National Park in central Gabon, Black & Red Bush Squirrel is confused but still comfortable in the trees. As it investigates a nest, Black & Red Bush Squirrel notices a rustling below – a horde of mandrills! Upon seeing over 700 foraging mandrills, Black & Red Bush Squirrel rockets away from the nest and draws the attention of a huge male Sphinx Monkey. Sphinx Monkey immediately chases after Black & Red Bush Squirrel, as several other male sphinx monkeys join the chase. Black & Red Bush Squirrel is sprinting as fast as it can, but Sphinx Monkey grabs it by the tail! (Warning – the following scene may be too intense for our younger viewers). Sphinx Monkey attacks, pulling at the hind limbs and skin of the abdomen, before eating the bulk of its prey. SPHINX MONKEY devours Black & Red Bush Squirrel!!! Narrated by Mauna Dasari

Chimpanzee (3) v. White-Winged Vampire Bat (14) – The genus name for Chimpanzee comes from Pan, the Greek god of the wild, who is often depicted carrying a flute or pipes. The familiar pant hoot of Chimpanzee vocalization is less melodic but equally recognizable. One of only three vampiric bat species, White-Winged Vampire Bat is 100% reliant on blood, drinking close to half of its body weight in blood at each meal. Feeding primarily on birds, the bite of the White-Winged Vampire Bat is silent and painless, allowing it to lap up seeping blood at its leisure, often completely unnoticed. In Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania, Chimpanzee has a belly full of figs and fruit and begins to build a new nest for the night. Reaching for leaves, Chimpanzee startles White-Winged Vampire Bat that has been resting underneath a nearby branch. White-Winged Vampire Bat defensively sinks its teeth into Chimpanzee’s finger and emits a fine spray of musky liquid from a pair of oral glands that project forward when the bat is agitated. White-Winged Vampire Bat takes the opportunity to flee, flying into the canopy of a nearby tree. Chimpanzee watches as White-Winged Vampire Bat is snatched out of the air and eaten by a blue monkey! Little does blue monkey know, White-Winged Vampire Bat can harbor and pass on infectious pathogens, including rabies and Chagas disease … CHIMPANZEE spooks White-Winged Vampire Bat!!! Narrated by Dr. Lara Durgavich & Dr. Alyson Brokaw

Round 1, SEA BEASTIES Results: Saber-Toothed Anchovy, Midgardia Seastar, Pink Vent Fish, Yeti Crab, Vampire Squid, Ammonite, Platyzilla, and Black Dragonfish ADVANCE!!!!

Saber-Toothed Anchovy (1) v. Planktonic Copepod (16) – Tonight’s first battle features two very different Sea Beasties. Planktonic Copepod is one of ~13,000 species of copepods, although this particular species earned its name (Cyclops bicuspidatus) by having one eye. Coming in at 3 stoats in length, Saber-Toothed Anchovy is a far cry from modern anchovies. The species epithet for Saber-Toothed Anchovy (chureloides) refers to an Urdu mythological shapeshifting, vampire-like demon with large fangs or tusks. Tonight, Planktonic Copepod finds itself 50 million years in the past, in Saber-Toothed Anchovy’s home of the shallow coastal waters of what is today’s Punjab Province, Pakistan. Planktonic Copepod isn’t too disturbed by this environment and might even survive since Saber-Toothed Anchovy hunts larger prey. Surging towards a school fish, Saber-Toothed Anchovy swims right past Planktonic Copepod! But the hydrodynamic wake causes Planktonic Copepod to drift off the field of battle. SABER-TOOTHED ANCHOVY defeats Planktonic Copepod!!! Narrated by Prof Marc Kissel & Prof Chris Anderson.

Midgardia Seastar (2) v. Hydra (15) – Named for the Norse mythological sea serpent of middle earth (Midgard), Midgardia Seastar has the longest arms of any known starfish – 12 arms, each up to 600 mm (1.76 stoats!) in length! The Hydra it is facing tonight is not the Greek mythological water serpent with multiple heads that famously battled Hercules, but is instead a small freshwater cnidarian that can pack quite a punch with the stinging cells in its tentacles. In the depths of the Southern Gulf of Mexico, Midgardia Seastar is stretched out on the ocean floor, and Hydra has anchored its foot right next to Midgardia Seastar. Tap, tap, tap … Hydra’s tentacles reach out, make contact with Midgardia Seastar, and sting! Hydra opens its mouth, but instead of a nourishing meal, salty sea water rushes in! Being completely enveloped in a hypertonic solution, water molecules are quickly leeching out of Hydra’s cells. AND the toxins from Hydra’s tentacles are ineffective against Midgardia Seastar, who simply waits for the ocean current to wash away the cnidarian detritus. MIDGARDIA SEASTAR outlasts Hydra!!! Narrated by Prof Patrice Connors & Prof Jessica Light

Pink Vent Fish (8) v. Lathe Acteon (Snail) (9) – Two voracious predators meet in this battle. Pink Vent Fish (Thermarces cerberus), named for Cerberus, the 3-headed hound in Greek mythology that guards the entrance to the underworld, lives in areas of deep sea hydrothermal vents. Named for a priestly herdsman transformed into a stag by Artemis, Lathe Acteon hunts tubeworms by drilling into their protective sheaths and sucking their guts out (slimy, yet satisfying!). Pink Vent Fish has earned the home habitat advantage, with tonight’s battle taking place in the East Pacific Rise in the vestimentiferan zone around the hydrothermal vents. As Lathe Acteon slides along the ocean floor towards the plethora of tubeworms, oxygen saturation decreases, and hydrogen sulfide saturation increases. Not adapted to these conditions, Lathe Acteon turns right to retreat – the predisposition to right-handed turns is a behavioral adaptation to keep it from washing out to sea or going too far upshore. Pink Vent Fish takes notice of this interesting snail turning in a right-handed circle. Calculating distance and speed, Pink Vent Fish strikes! PINK VENT FISH gulps down Lathe Acteon!!! Narrated by Dr. Tara Chestnut

Yeti Crab (7) v. Aphrodite Anthias (10) – Upon its first discovery, scientists were so entranced by the beauty of Aphrodite Anthias, much like how Aphrodite’s beauty enchanted the Greek gods, that they were unable to look away from the vividly colored fish with a neon yellow, pink, and red body and lime and pink dorsal fin. This beauty is out of place, in the home habitat of Yeti Crab at the deep-sea vent site of Annie’s Anthill, 2228m deep. Yeti Crab’s name reflects its white, hairy appearance, although its “hair” are actually stiff structures known as setae that provide surface area to cultivate bacteria that can be harvested for nutrition. Aphrodite Anthias is only adapted to reef life down to 260m, and in the deep of the hydrothermal vents, experiences intense underwater atmospheric pressure that quickly overcomes its cell membranes and bodily structures. The inwardly collapsing Aphrodite Anthias drifts down towards Yeti Crab, who pauses in its microbial episymbiont farming. Despite a lack of visible light and greatly reduced eyes, Yeti Crab begins to consume the damaged remains of Aphrodite Anthias. YETI CRAB defeats Aphrodite Anthias!!!! Narrated by Prof Katie Hinde

Vampire Squid (5) v. Basket Star (12)Vampire Squid, whose scientific name of Vampyroteuthis infernalis roughly translates to vampire squid from H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks, is actually neither a vampire nor a squid. Instead, Vampire Squid feeds mainly on detritus and is more closely related to octopuses. Basket Star, of the genus Gorgoncephalus, has multiple arms and a twisting nature which evoked images of the ancient Gorgons. In the depths of the West Atlantic in the Gulf of Guinea about 300 miles off the Ivory Coast, Basket Star isn’t bothered by the pressure due to its highly calcified internal structure. Movement, however, is another issue. Without ground to attach to, Basket Star feels lost and flounders as it tries to find its orientation. This thrashing draws the attention of Vampire Squid, who moves in to investigate. Basket Star reaches out, trying to find something of substances to orient itself, which is misinterpreted by Vampire Squid as aggressive action. Vampire Squid releases a burst of bioluminescent mucus! The cloud of light gives an oddly beautiful point of reference as Basket Star drifts lower and lower, out of the field of battle and out of the tournament. VAMPIRE SQUID defeats Basket Star!!!  Narrated by Prof Josh Drew

Ammonite (6) v. Demon Eartheater Cichlid (11) Ammonites were named because of their resemblance to the horns of Ammon – the Greek/Roman version of Amun, the Egyptian God of life and reproduction. However, this specific Ammonite (and second fossil species of the night) is a heteromorph ammonite, whose shell doesn’t follow the normal symmetrical pattern. Modern-day species (and popular aquarium fish) Demon Eartheater Cichlid gets its species name, jujubari, from a word meaning demon or malignant spirit from the Tupi people, an Indigenous group of the Amazon basin. Transported to the Western Interior Seaway of the late Cretaceous (an ancient sea that once stretched across the middle of North America, connecting the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean), Demon Eartheater Cichlid is feeling … strange. Typically found in very dilute habitats, the Western Interior Seaway has a higher salinity than Demon Eartheater Cichlid is used to. With its aberrant shape, Ammonite is considered a poor swimmer and sticks to the sea floor for scavenging. As it eyes Ammonite with suspicion, Demon Eartheater Cichlid loses its body water in this salty environment and then loses consciousness – perhaps a mercy, as Ammonite shuffles by and slices through the dying Demon Eartheater Cichlid with sharp, beak-like mouth parts. AMMONITE consumes Demon Eartheater Cichlid!!! Narrated by Dr. Alyson Brokaw

Platyzilla (3) v. Tube Anemone (14) – Named after the ancient Mesopotamian mythology of “Lillith”, Tube Anemone (Arachnanthus lilith) is nocturnal, emerging from the ground to feed in the dark. Platyzilla (common name for Obdurodon tharalkooschild) is an extinct member of the platypus lineage. Being an egg-laying Monotreme, Platyzilla is the sole representative of #TeamMammal in this Sea Beasties division. Although this fossil species was initially described only from a single tooth, that tooth helped define the species as carnivorous, likely preying upon crustaceans and small vertebrates. With Platyzilla as the higher-seeded combatant, we are once again transported through the magic of MMM back in time – 10 million years ago to the late Miocene, in a lush rainforest with lots of freshwater pools (today, this would be a dry savannah in Riversleigh, Australia). Disoriented, Tube Anemone quickly finds a patch of soft sediment and buries itself in the muck for protection. Platyzilla uses its bill to prod around in the soil for food and comes upon this small, wriggling potential snack. Unlike the modern-day platypus that loses its teeth a few days after birth, Platyzilla has retained its chompers. PLATYZILLA masticates and eats Tube Anemone!!! Narrated by Dr. Brian Tanis

Black Dragonfish (4) v. Blue Glaucus (13) – With Idiacanthus atlanticus (Black Dragonfish) going up against Glaucus atlanticus (Blue Glaucus), it’s a safe bet that this battle will be taking place in the Atlantic Ocean – specifically, about 1000km southwest of the Azores at a depth of 1000m. Blue Glaucus uses countershading to its advantage, with a dull grey top and vivid blue and white underside. Floating upside down, Blue Glaucus looks blue when looked down upon into the ocean and light grey when looking up and seen against the sky. In the inky cold void of the deep ocean, Black Dragonfish has its own personal spotlight, with a row of bioluminescent photophores that line its jaws. An effective predator known to hunt Portuguese Man-o-War, Blue Glaucus usually keeps an air bubble in its stomach to keep it buoyant for feeding at the surface. Looking for the surface, Blue Glaucus spots a light and swims towards it … but it is actually swimming towards the fang-filled jaws of Black Dragonfish. Black Dragonfish strikes and slashes at Blue Glaucus! In a tricky turn of events, Blue Glaucus is able to sequester the poison from its Portuguese Man-o-War prey and incorporate it into its own body. However, the slime in Black Dragonfish’s stomach is protective & Dragonfish swallows Blue Glaucus whole. BLACK DRAGONFISH defeats Blue Glaucus!!! Narrated by Prof Josh Drew

Round 1, Tricksy Taxonomy Results: Dugong, Mountain Tapir, Tarsier, Red Wolf, Solenodon, Jaguarundi, Egyptian Fruit Bat, and Musk Deer ADVANCE!!!!

Sports Summaries by Prof Kate Lesciotto, Sam Houston State University

Dugong (1) v. Colo Colo Opossum (16) – This Number 1 Seed could have been found in the Sea Beasties division but is part of Tricksy Taxonomy because Dugongs are closely related to elephants! (pauses, checks notes…) Yup, that’s right – elephants! The Colo Colo Opossum, a small South American terrestrial marsupial, earned its place in the division by being more closely related to Australian marsupials than other South American marsupial species. Those genetics, while interesting, might not help Colo Colo Opossum in tonight’s battle off the shore of Talibong Island, Thailand. Colo Colo Opossum clings desperately to a floating piece of wood, while Dugong grazes along the shallow bed of seagrass. But wait! It’s low tide! The retreating water exposes vegetation and floating debris, giving Colo Colo Opossum the perfect bridge to scramble back to solid ground, abandoning the field of battle. Dugong isn’t the least bit bothered by the low tide, as there is still plenty of water for grazing. DUGONG outswims Colo Colo Opossum!! Narrated by Prof Jessica Light.

Mountain Tapir (3) v. Common Treeshrew (14) – Malaysian legend tells that Mountain Tapirs were made with leftover parts of other animals, accounting for the unusual mixture of traits that includes a pig- or elephant-like snout. Genetics tells us that Mountain Tapir is actually more closely related to rhinos and horses instead of elephants or pigs. Our other combatant – Common Treeshrew – has a name that conflicts with its genetics, which indicate that it is more closely related to colugos than shrews or squirrels (perhaps a good thing, given the fate of squirrels in yesterday’s battles?). In the high Andes at Sangay National Park, Common Treeshrew tries to adjust to the lower partial pressure of oxygen at this higher elevation, while Mountain Tapir quietly munches on some aster and ferns with no problems, being adapted to the elevation with an increased concentration of red blood cells. As the sun sets, the temperatures starts to drop into the mid 40s°F. Mountain Tapir has a thick, curly coat of fur to help it stay warm, while Common Treeshrew is adapted to a hot tropical climate and having trouble staying warm. Out of breath due to the elevation and unable to forage for insects to fuel shivering or other heat generating behaviors, Common Treeshrew curls up in a clump of vegetation and slowly drifts off into a forever sleep. MOUNTAIN TAPIR defeats Common Treeshrew!!! Narrated by Dr. Brian Tanis.

Tarsier (7) v. Mara (10) – Although it may look like someone put a kangaroo’s head on a rabbit’s body, the Patagonian Mara is genetically a rodent. Facing off against one of the world’s largest living rodents is one of the smallest primate species – the Phillipine Tarsier. It may look like a monkey, but Tarsier is actually part of a sister group to anthropoids. After being transported from the open Argentinian grassland, Mara suddenly finds himself on the forest floor on the Philippine island province of Bohol. Mara is disoriented in the dark forest, and Tarsier has just emerged from his hidey-hole in the trees above, ready to hunt for an evening meal. Separated from his mate, Mara produced a high-pitched whistle and begins to search the immediate surroundings. Tarsier times a precise leap to ambush a delicious moth against the tree bark in the forest canopy above Mara’s head. A distressed Mara increases the search radius to find his mate, moving further and further into the forest and eventually moving out of the field of battle! TARSIER outlasts Mara!!! Narrated by Dr. Lara Durgavich.

Red Wolf (2) v. Giant Golden Mole (15) – The tricksy taxonomy in this battle is that Giant Golden Moles were previously classified by their morphological features with North American moles, but molecular biology shows that they are unique to Africa and more closely related to elephants (elephants are apparently a popular genetic relative for #2021MMM combatants). Interspecific gene flow among canids have led to debates about whether Red Wolf is a species or subspecies. Although tonight’s battle takes place in the home habitat of Red Wolf in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in coastal North Carolina, Giant Golden Mole is used to a similar habitat, so doesn’t feel too out of place. Red Wolf trots along the perimeter of the pack’s territory, crossing under a bridge when something catches his eye … Giant Golden Mole is burrowing into the rich organic soil of the streambed. Red Wolf gives an exploratory nose tap on the hind end of Giant Golden Mole sticking out the ground. Giant Golden Mole wriggles intensely, and Red Wolf pounces! Dragging Giant Golden Mole from its burrow, Red Wolf shakes its head vigorously, snapping Giant Golden Mole’s spine and tearing in with canines and shearing with carnassials. RED WOLF consumes Giant Golden Mole!!! Narrated by Dr. Tara Chestnut.

Malagasy Striped Civet (4) v. Solenodon (13) – While it is Madagascar’s second largest carnivore, the Malagasy Striped Civet is still only the size of a house cat – but strangely enough is more closely related to mongooses & hyenas rather than cats! After a lackluster performance in #2018MMM, the largest extant venomous terrestrial mammal, Solenodon, is back for redemption … that’s right, a venomous mammal. Transported to Makira Natural Park in Madagascar, Solenodon ignores some nearby noisy indri lemurs and captures a small shrew tenrec for a meal. Noticing that Solenodon is distracted, Malagasy Striped Civet quickly approaches, unaware of Solenodon’s venomous nature. However, Solenodon’s venom is more for subduing prey rather than defense, so avoidance might be the better option … if it was even aware of Malagasy Striped Civet’s presence. Solenodon finishes its meal, remaining unaware of any danger. Malagasy Striped Civet LEAPS! At a millipede. Malagasy Striped Civet catches the tasty morsel and runs off the field of battle to enjoy its meal. SOLENODON outlasts Malagasy Striped Civet!!! Narrated by Prof Marc Kissel.

Jaguarundi (6) v. Amami Rabbit (11) – Although referred to early on as a “weasel cat” that resembled an otter, the Jaguarundi is neither weasel nor otter but nestled in (genetically speaking) with felid lineages, closely related to puma and cheetah. Amami Rabbit, although sometimes questioned whether rabbit or rodent, is squarely within the family Leporidae with hares and rabbits, and now in very unfamiliar territory in the lowland forests of the Manú National Park in Peru. Unfortunately for Amami Rabbit, this habitat plays host to a number of predators. Amami Rabbit tries to make the best of the situation and finds some veggies to nibble on, but a local pit viper slithers up and strikes! Leaping away, Amami Rabbit narrowly misses a venomous bite. Meanwhile, a hidden Jaguarundi has been observing Amami Rabbit. Just as Amami Rabbit settles back into its vegan meal of forest floor vegetation, Jaguarundi bares those beautiful carnassials and snatches up Amami Rabbit! JAGUARUNDI consumes Amami Rabbit!! Narrated by Prof Kristi Lewton & Prof Chris Anderson.

Kinda Baboon (5) v. Egyptian Fruit Bat (12) – Having only been recognized as a distinct species from other baboons in 2013 and with softer, silkier hair, the Kinda Baboon (kin-duh, not kind-a) enjoys home-habitat advantage tonight in the Kasanka National Park in Central Zambia. Egyptian Fruit Bat is part of Superorder Laurasiatheria with hedgehogs, pangolins, carnivores, horses, and hippos, but genetic data suggests they are more closely related to carnivores and horses within that group. Despite having an excellent spatial memory that helps it remember the locations of multiple fruiting trees, Egyptian Fruit Bat doesn’t recognize its current surroundings, and at this time of year, the park is devoid of its usual massive, but seasonal, bat population. Feeling lonely, Egyptian Fruit Bat finds an acacia tree to escape the drizzling rain … and lands right next to our male Kinda Baboon and his groupmates! Have we mentioned that Kinda Baboons are known to hunt for meat at times (being an opportunistic omnivore)? Kinda Baboon notices the out-of-place Egyptian Fruit Bat and yawns, revealing sharp canines. Egyptian Fruit Bat shifts uncomfortably as Kinda Baboon starts grooming a nearby female. After a few moments, the female moves away to a new patch of sunshine, and our male Kinda Baboon follows, leaving his spot by Egyptian Fruit Bat. EGYPTIAN FRUIT BAT outlasts Kinda Baboon!!!! Narrated by Dr. Alyson Brokaw & Mauna Dasari.

Musk Deer (8) v. Aoudad (9) – This taxonomically tricksy battle is between #NotADeer and #NotASheep. Musk Deer is not a true deer, with a DNA profile that clusters next to the group with cattle and sheep. Aoudad, which is sometimes mistakenly classified as a sheep, is more closely related to goats. Tonight, our animal combatants find themselves in the Golden Mountains of Altai in southern Siberia, with Musk Deer (a male with saber-like tusks rather than antlers) comfortably enjoying a lichen foraging patch. Aoudad emerges from the mist, and Musk Deer stops to size up the newcomer. In order to signal his alpha status, Aoudad raises the fringe hair over his withers and then licks his own muzzle. In response, Musk Deer vibrates his lips and displays his tusks. The standoff escalates as Aoudad utters a low growl, and Musk Deer counters by aggressively wiggling his hindquarters while vocalizing. As Aoudad lowers his horns and prepares to charge, Musk Deer charges first, using his tusks to slash and tear Aoudad’s hindlegs! Aoudad attempts to counter with a headbutt but is met by Musk Deer’s hooves driving into Aoudad’s head. Even as Aoudad begins his retreat, Musk Deer continues to chase and slash with his tusks, until Aoudad takes off at top speed. MUSK DEER defeats Aoudad!!! Narrated by Prof Patrice Connors & Prof Katie Hinde.

Division Red, in Fur Round 1: Kangaroo, Tree Rat, Brocket, Langur, Fox, Bay Cat, Lemur, Hartebeest ADVANCE!!!

Sports Summaries by Prof Kate Lesciotto, Sam Houston State University

Red Kangaroo (1) v. Southern Red-Backed Vole (16) – Tonight the largest living marsupial faces off against the Wild Card Winner in the Charles Darwin Reserve in Western Australia. This battle features a male Red Kangaroo, as males are reddish in color, while females are bluish-gray, and this male Red Kangaroo is currently enjoying home-court advantage, while Southern Red-Backed Vole isn’t enjoying the dry, dusty environs. In the prime foraging hours of dusk, Southern Red-Backed Vole finds itself smack dab in the middle of a kangaroo mob (official term for a group or 10 or more kangaroos) grazing on the dry, autumn grass. Southern Red-Back Vole settles in to nibble on a seed, when suddenly it’s soaking wet! Could this be a sweet, refreshing rain? Sadly no – it’s spit dribbling from the hungry, slobbering Red Kangaroo! Escaping this unwelcome downpour, Southern Red-Backed Vole scampers off to a nearby Acacia cerastes (a rare, wiry wattle) shrub. RED KANGAROO defeats Southern Red-Backed Vole!!!! Narrated by Dr. Tara Chestnut.

Red Hartebeest (2) v. Red Squirrel (15) – This battle features the hulking specimen of Red Hartebeest versus the dainty adorableness of Red Squirrel (seriously, check out those ear tufts!). This male Red Hartebeest is in its prime, making his presence known on a termite mound under the hot Botswanan sun in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park to ensure that other males don’t make a play for his territory while several female hartebeests enjoy a nap under the shade of a nearby thorn tree. Red Squirrel, used to forest life, is alarmed by the lack of cover and unfamiliar predators. Red Squirrel sees the thorn tree as potential cover from raptors and other predators. Assuming that the large, reddish herbivores there are as harmless as the red deer from his home forest, Red Squirrel barrels towards the thorn tree. Red Hartebeest sees the small ball of fur and also decides to run towards his females under the thorn tree. Red Squirrel gets tangled up in Red Hartebeest’s hooves, with an unintentional kick sending Red Squirrel flying (note that this is not a usually a flying squirrel – that was a different battle). Quickly picking himself up, Red Squirrel resumes his track towards the tree, but this time instead of getting kicked, he is trodden and squished by Red Hartebeest. RED HARTEBEEST tramples Red Squirrel!!! Narrated by Dr. Anne Hilborn.

Maroon Langur (4) v. Little Red Flying Fox (13) Maroon Langur (AKA Red Leaf Monkey) is in the Sebangau Forest of Central Kalimantan in Indonesian Borneo, enjoying the evening from the treetops surrounded by the females of his group. Hearing a rustling from the forest, Maroon Langur gives a territorial call, which is heard by the Little Red Flying Fox who is flying nearby while looking for a meal of nectar. (“Little” Red Flying Fox may be small in weight but has a 3-foot wingspan!!) Maroon Langur continues to scan the canopy for interlopers, while Little Red Flying Fox veers towards a more open area … and right into a net set up by local hunters!! These nets are often used to hunt Large Flying Foxes, particularly from February-April which has contributed to the decline of bat populations. As Little Red Flying Fox struggles in vain to free his wings, Maroon Langur decides that there is no further threat and resumes his evening activities. MAROON LANGUR outlasts Little Red Flying Fox!!! Narrated by Dr. Lara Durgavich and Dr. Alyson Brokaw.

Red Brocket (5) v. Siberian Weasel (12) – The Red Brocket is a smaller deer species, weighing in at approximately 136 stoats (#StoatsAsMeasurements) or 30 kg, compared to the 3.7 stoats, or 820 g, for the Siberian Weasel. Despite being a very #MightyMustelid, Siberian Weasel finds itself perhaps slightly overdressed, with a coat designed to survive a Siberian winter, in the unfamiliar Reserva Natural Vale in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil. Bounding loudly through the leaf litter in search of food, Siberian Weasel startles Red Brocket, who emits a sneeze-like snort in alarm and leaps up and lands … back in the exact same spot. Siberian Weasel is unfazed by Red Brocket but decides that this confrontation is not worth his impressive carnassials or energy. Siberian Weasel bounds past Red Brocket and exits the battlefield to search for a tasty snack elsewhere. RED BROCKET outlasts Siberian Weasel!!! Narrated by Prof Jessica Light.

Red Fox (6) v. Ring-Tailed Vontsira (11) – Among the many species of foxes, Red Fox is the largest at 57 inches long and 14 kilograms. The Ring-Tailed Vontsira is a social creature and is Madagascar’s answer to bloodthirsty, carnivorous squirrels. However, this battle does not occur in Madagascar – instead, Red Fox is enjoying the familiar territory of Walnut Creek, California, outside of Diablo Foothills Park. Red Fox is comfortable in the woodlands, as well as more urban environments. This is a drier environment than Ring-Tailed Vontsira is used to, but no bother – something delicious is in the air, and Ring-Tailed Vontsira slinks its way to a plastic trash can near some park benches. Trotting along the trail, Red Fox stops at the same picnic area, knowing it might be able to pick up some discarded human food scraps or a rat that was attracted to the area by the food scraps … in fact, Red Fox hears a big rat in the trash can right now! Climbing out of the trash can and licking mustard off its nose, Ring-Tailed Vontsira runs into Red Fox – a stare-down ensues. And Red Fox lunges!! Weighed down by its latest trashcan meal of a half-eaten hamburger, Ring-Tailed Vontsira only manages to let out one last squeak as Red Fox bites through its spine. RED FOX kills Ring-Tailed Vontsira!!! Narrated by Dr. Asia Murphy & Kwasi Wrensford, PhC.

Red-Crested Tree Rat (8) v. Red & White Giant Flying Squirrel (9) – Just like the Wild Card round, this battle sees another match-up between #TeamRodent, with the higher-seeded but endangered Red-Crested Tree Rat enjoying the at-home comfort of the Andean cloud forests of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Natural Park. Luckily, Red & White Giant Flying Squirrel is also used to a forest habitat and begins to forage on some nearby leaves without feeling too out of place. Suddenly, Red & White Giant Flying Squirrel stills, scanning the scene carefully, and squeaks with alarm! Red-Crested Tree Rat launches itself towards Red & White Giant Flying Squirrel to begin a boxing-style attack! Red & White Giant Flying Squirrel is not adapted for this style of fighting and instead launches itself off the branch, with arms and legs precisely stretched out for gliding through the air. While glorious to watch, this maneuver does take Red & White Giant Flying Squirrel out of the battlefield. RED-CRESTED TREE RAT beatboxes away Red & White Giant Flying Squirrel!!! Written by Prof Patrice Connors.

Red Ruffed Lemur (7) v. Red-Necked Pademelon (10) – While the higher-seeded Red Ruffed Lemur enjoys home-habitat advantage in the deciduous tropical forests of the Masoala Peninsula in Madagascar, the same trees favored by the lemurs are also favored by logging companies. Illegal logging, traps, cyclones, and fires make this a dangerous environment and have resulted in the Red Ruffed Lemur being one of the most endangered of all the lemurs. Much smaller that the Number 1 seeded Red Kangaroo, Red-Necked Pademelon (definitely not a thylacine) is also an Australian marsupial and, although confused by the tropical forest of tonight’s battle, begins to graze in the undergrowth. From the forest canopy above, Red-Necked Pademelon hears multiple screeching, staccato jackhammer “uh-uh-uh-uhs”! Could this possibly be the growling of Tasmanian Devils?? Tasmanian Devils used to be a primary predator of Red-Necked Pademelon but were outcompeted by dingoes on mainland Australia thousands of years ago. Plus … Tasmanian Devils aren’t known for their tree-climbing prowess. No, this is Red Ruffed Lemur performing a “loud call” directly above Red-Necked Pademelon, who quickly hops off through the dense ground cover and flees the battlefield. RED RUFFED LEMUR terrifies Red-Necked Pademelon!!! Narrated by Prof Marc Kissel.

Bay Cat (3) v. Red-Rumped Agouti (14) – Perhaps the rarest species in the Red, in Fur Division, Bay Cat is an endangered species about the size of a domestic cat from the forests of Borneo. While not much is known about the predatory habits of Bay Cat, it’s a good guess that small mammals are part of its diet (hmmm, that certainly doesn’t sound good for Red-Rumped Agouti!). The Red-Rumped Agouti is a rodent species that has been described as having a “pig-like body and a rabbit-like head” and plays a crucial role in seed dispersal for large-seeded tropical plants. In the Wehea Forest in East Kalimantan, Borneo (not terribly unlike the forests that Red-Rumped Agouti is used to in northeast South America), the elusive Bay Cat is on the hunt. Red-Rumped Agouti has been lulled into relaxation by a tasty meal of palm fruits and is unaware as the ghost-like Bay Cat stealthily inches forward and pounces!! Even though Red-Rumped Agouti is almost the same size as Bay Cat, the ambush is quick, and the jaws of Bay Cat are powerful, providing a mercifully quick end to this battle. BAY CAT devours Red-Rumped Agouti!!! Narrated by Prof Kristi Lewton.

#2021MMM Wild Card

Wild Card Results: Southern Red-Backed Vole ADVANCES!!!!

Hopi Chipmunk v. Southern Red-Backed Vole – Tonight’s Wild Card round sees two proud ginger members of #TeamRodent squaring off for the right to meet Red Kangaroo on the battlefield in Round 1, Red, in Fur Division. Although Hopi Chipmunk has a slight weight advantage (47-59g versus 20-42g for Southern Red-Backed Vole), Southern Red-Backed Vole wins the coinflip for home-habitat advantage along the North Inlet trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. Hopi Chipmunk is used to the forest life though and begins this battle by foraging for seeds on the forest floor. Suddenly, Hopi Chipmunk freezes, eyes scanning the environment, and sees Southern Red-Backed Vole raised in a crouching posture with one paw lifted – a behavior that suggests a potential escalation to aggression. That potential is realized as Southern Red-Backed Vole leaps in for an attack!! This happens to be a male Southern Red-Backed Vole, who is very defensive of his home range during the current breeding season, and who proceeds to use both paws to beat Hopi Chipmunk’s head. Without the advantage of being in its home turf or mates to defend, an unmotivated Hopi Chipmunk quickly retreats to a hidey-hole. SOUTHERN RED-BACKED VOLE repels Hopi Chipmunk!!!!!  Narrated by Prof Patrice Conners

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