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March Mammal Madness

The official location for March Mammal Madness tournament information and resources! If you're learning, you're winning!


circus style banner with red and white stripesWelcome to March Mammal Madness! This library guide is your official location for MMM tournament info and resources to help you fill out your bracket. March Mammal Madness originated at Mammals Suck...Milk, Dr. Katie Hinde's blog, where she founded MMM in 2013. Each year, the tournament has become more popular, elaborate, educational, and fun.

Inspired by (but in no way affiliated with or representing) the NCAA College Basketball March Madness Championship Tournament, March Mammal Madness is an annual tournament of *simulated* combat competition among animals. Scientific literature is cited to substantiate likely outcomes as a probabilistic function of the two species' attributes within the battle environment. Attributes considered in calculating battle outcome include temperament, weaponry, armor, body mass, running speed, fight style, physiology, and motivation.

Through the scientific information embedded in the bout descriptions, participants are educated about inter-species interactions, the importance of ecological context, how natural selection has shaped adaptations, and conservation management of endangered species.

Get Started!

  1. Get your bracket! (to be released February 23, 2022)
  2. Pick your winners by March 14, 2022 for the Wild Card!
  3. Follow the action (Tournament schedule)
    1. Live on Twitter: Follow #2022MMM or @2022MMMletsgo - a curated twitter account that only includes bout tweets, not spectator trash talk. Teachers may also want to use #2022MMMk12 with their students for a more student-friendly twitter feed.
    2. Read archived bouts, summaries, and videos here daily after each match if you can't participate live.
    3. March Mammal Madness Facebook Page

Battle Outcome

How are the winners determined?

The organizers take information about each combatant's weaponry, armor, fight style, temperament/motivation, and any special skills/consideration and estimate a probability of the outcome and then use a random number generator to determine the outcome. This is why there are upsets in the tournament.

Another thing that can happen is if a species has to battle in an ecology that is really bad for it - for example, if a cold adapted species is battling in a tropical forest, it can dangerously overheat- changing the outcome probabilities. Sometimes an animal gets injured or snaps a canine in a previous round that carries over into the next round- just like an injury of a star player totally changes a basketball team's outcome. Also hiding or running away counts as a forfeit.

In the early rounds the battle location is in the preferred habitat of the better-ranked combatant in the battle, and ecology can play a huge role in what happens. Once to the Elite Trait, the battle location is random among 4 ecologies for the remaining battles. The location is announced right before the battle.

Participants fill out their brackets with their choices for the winners for each bout. Scoring occurs at the end of the tournament, points allocated as follows:

  • Wild Card = 1 point
  • Round 1 = 1 point each
  • Round 2 = 2 points each
  • Round 3 = 3 points each
  • Round 4 = 5 points each
  • Round 5 = 6 points each
  • Champion= 13 points

Example Play by Plays


How do I play?

We can only suggest the following for maximal fun and learning. Print out the bracket, predict who will win in each of the match-ups in round one, then round two, and so on and so forth, all the way out to your prediction who wins the championship! Get your friends, colleagues, and/or family to play. Post brackets on wall prominently. Trash talk their selections that depart from yours. Follow along in real time to battle play by plays on Twitter by following hashtag #2021MMM or @2021MMMletsgo on scheduled bout nights. If twitter isn't your thing, check the facebook page, the blog, or this library guide for updates a couple hours AFTER the bouts conclude for the night (or the next morning)

What do the numbers next to the Mammals mean?

These correspond to the relative rankings among the species. 1 is the highest/best ranked team in the division and 16 is the lowest/worst - the number assigned is referred to as "seeding" but it's functionally interchangeable with ranking (seeded/ranked are therefore also interchangeable).

The single elimination bracket battle favors the strongest teams until you get out to the semi-finals: seed 1 plays (crushes) seed 16, seed 2 plays seed 15, etc. As soon as a species loses, it's out of the tournament (unless it Alt-Advances)!

Are the battles one on one, or do social mammals get their buddies?

Typically, battles are one on one. However, in 2017 there was a team: the Neanderthal Hunting Party, which was a small group of hunters working together with Neanderthal technology. In general, assume that the combatants represent the most prime-aged, healthy and strong specimen of that species. Also, just as in nature, there can occasionally be scientifically-grounded outside interference.

Is the battle always to the death?

The battles are NOT always “nature, red in tooth and claw.” Sometimes the winner "wins" by displacing the other at a feeding location, sometimes a powerful animal doesn't attack because it is not motivated to- a few years ago in the “Who in the What Now?” Division we had a dhole lose to a binturong because the night before dhole had gorged on babirusa and the gut passage time of wild canids is 24-48 hours. This meant that the dhole was still full from the night before and unwilling to take the risks of tangling with the binturong. Even a small claw cut or bite wound can get infected and lots of times an animal will back down rather than take a risk for little potential benefit.

What is an "upset"?

This is when a low ranked team beats a high ranked team. 9 beating 8 isn't a super impressive upset. In the actual NCAA tournament, upsets happen when a 12 will beat a 5 or an 11 will beat a 6, once every few years a 15 will beat a 2 in the first round. For example,

“Coming off its 11th national championship the season before, UCLA was ready to make another run through the 1996 NCAA tournament as a No. 4 seed. But in his final year as coach, Pete Carril and his 13 seeded Princeton offense got the best of the Bruins, stunning Jim Harrick’s squad in the first round with a last-second basket on a backdoor cut.”

What is a “Cinderella” team?

A "cinderella" team is a low-ranked team that progresses multiple rounds of the tournament systematically beating higher ranked teams.

So should I always pick the better ranked mammal?

No! Real fans don’t abandon their favorite animals just because they are pathetic at this kind of battle (although hopefully well-suited to their particular ecological niche). People will clown you if your bracket is TOO conservative by always picking the better-ranked team.

Also the rankings are not infallible and there are upsets in nature too. Upsets are what make March Mammal Madness exciting. Like in 2015 when #3 seed Quokka exited stage left for those sweet burger rings, allowing #14 seed Numbat to advance!!! OMG! WHO SAW THAT COMING!?!?!?!

Wait, I thought this was a battle of mammals! What are all those #AltMammals doing here?

Did you know that longtime MMM co-organizers Chris Anderson and Josh Drew aren't even mammalogists? Chris is an entomologist and Josh is a marine biologist who primarily studies fish! AND well, apparently people see "cats" everywhere they look. Most importantly, all animals are awesome, so March Mammal Madness puts an asterisk behind 'Mammal.'

I love otters! Can I call them my "spirit animal" without perpetuating racism and settler colonialism?

Most probably not. If you have a deep affinity for an animal, but your identity means you are culturally appropriating when you use the term, there are many options. We suggest: "inner animal", "anima", "emblem", or "animal quiddity/quidditas." #WordNerds

March Mammal Madness Team 2013-2022

Editor in Chief Katie Hinde, Arizona State University
Deputy Editor Chris Anderson, Dominican University
Art Director Charon Henning, Scientific Illustrator

Chris Anderson, Dominican University

Alyson Brokaw, Texas A&M University

Tara Chestnut, Mount Rainier National Park, NPS

Patrice Connors, Colorado Mesa University

Mauna Dasari, Notre Dame University

Josh Drew, State University of New York Syracuse

Lara Durgavich, Tufts University

Yara Haridy, Museum für Naturkunde

Anne Hilborn, University of California- Riverside

Katie Hinde, Arizona State University

Mark Kissel, Appalachian State University

Danielle Lee, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Kristi Lewton, University of Southern California

Jessica Light, Texas A&M University

Asia Murphy, Penn State University

Brian Tanis, Oregon State University

Jo Varner, Colorado Mesa University

Kwasi Wrensford, UC Berkeley


Mary Casillas, Scientific Illustrator

Charon Henning, Scientific Illustrator

Will Nickley, Graphic Designer

Olivia Pellicer, Scientific Illustrator

Valeria Pellicer, Scientific Illustrator

Cyn Rudzis, Artist

Eduardo Amorim, University of Lausanne

Elinor Karlsson, University of Massachusetts Boston & Broad Institute

Anne Stone, Arizona State University

Nate Upham, Arizona State University

Fernando Villanea, University of Colorado-Boulder

Jesse Weber, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Melissa Wilson, Arizona State University
Official Twitter Account

Connor Fox, Oak Park & River Forest High School

Emma Willocks, Brown University

Sports Summaries

Margaret Janz, Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

Jason Krell, Arizona State University

Kate Lesciotto, Pennsylvania State University

Jessica Martin, Arizona State University
LibGuide Anali Maughan Perry, Arizona State University
Spanish Translation Alejandra Nuñez-de la Mora, Universidad Veracruzana, Xalapa
Educator Materials

Katie Hinde, Arizona State University

Stephanie Schuttler, NC Museum of Natural Sciences

Jenna Kissel, Education Engagement Coordinator

Video Recaps MC Marmot & The Rodent Roundtable

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