Mammal March Madness 2016!

UPDATE: #2017MMM tournament will begin March 6, 2017- tournament announcements & info will be rolled out starting mid-Feb.

We’re back baby! And I don’t want to overhype these simulated animal battles but obviously Mammal March Madness is…

In honor of (but in no way affiliated with or representing) the NCAA College Basketball March Madness Championship Tournament, Mammals Suck features an annual tournament of *simulated* combat competition among mammals. 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.

The Bracket

(If you are unfamiliar with brackets, check out the FAQ at the end of the post)


Play-by-Play & #TrashTalk archived in the STORIFY!

WILD CARD STORIFY (Thor’s Hero Shrew Advances)

CHILL MAMMALS Round 1 Storify (Polar Bear, Snow Leopard, Wolverine, Takin, Pallas Cat, Andean Mountain Cat, Actic Fox, & Hoary Marmot Advance!)

MASCOT MAMMALS Round 1 Storify (Bison, Longhorn, Badger, Bighorn Sheep, Boar, Mules, Bobcat, Bear Advance)

MIGHTY GIANTS Round 1 Storify (Giant Panda, Giant Forest Hog, Large Tree Shrew, Giant Anteater, Giant River Otter, Greater Mouse Deer, Indian Giant Squirrel, Giant Flying Fox)

MAMMALS of the NOUNS Round1 Storify (Goat of the Mountain, Wolf of the Tundra, Porcupine of the Cape, Otter of the Sea, Polecat of the Steppe, Hyrax of the Rock, Dog of the Bush, Wallaby of the Swamp)

Mighty Giants & Chill Mammals Round 2 Storify (Giant Panda, Giant Forest Hog, Giant Anteater, Greater Mouse Deer, Polar Bear, Snow Leopard, Wolverine, Takin Advance!)

Mascot Mammals & Mammals of the Nouns Round 2 Storify (Goat of the Mountain, Wolf of the Tundra, Porcupine of the Cape, Otter of the Sea, Bison, Longhorn, Mules, & Bear Advance)

Sweet 16 Storify! (Bison, Longhorn, Wolverine, Polar Bear, Panda, Giant Forest Hog, Wolf of the Tundra, Goat of the Mountain ADVANCE!)

ELITE TRAIT Storify (Bison, Wolverine, Giant Forest Hog, Wolf of the Tundra ADVANCE!)

FINAL ROAR Storify (Giant Forest Hog & Wolf of the Tundra ADVANCE!!!)


In 2016 we have gotten some SWEET media coverage! Thanks Wall Street Journal, Quartz, R&DGreen Bay Press, Kansas City Star, ASU News, & Skunk Bear, & NATURE NEWS(!!!), (radio) WBEZ Chicago & KJZZ Science & Innovation Desk

You can also read about #CatScandal!

This year we have ALL new divisions! And to roll out the new divisions, we are going to release two taxa from each division. Note that these are not first round bouts, just two of the species included in the Division. Art credit to the incredible Charon Henning.

#2016MMM New Divisions ROLL CALL!
Having recently moved to the Arizona desert from North of the Wall, distance makes the heart grow fonder & I can now appreciate how natural selection has shaped taxa to deal with frigid temperatures by favoring cold climate adaptations. So we have… drum roll…


Last year we had Mighty Mini Mammals, tiny competitors from across the mammalian class. But some animals are big absolutely or just relatively within their clade. So we have… drum roll…


Throughout the year, MMM fans email us ideas for species and divisions. In this amazing idea file, one suggestion particularly was jaw-droppingly good. A chance to showcase both wild and domesticated species as well as inspire a key demographic!?! Thanks to Ron P. we have… drum roll…


Some hardworking mammals don’t get flashy names, but do get anchored to their ecological niche. Sometimes their generic, pedestrian, common names obscure a noble spirit that embiggens even the smallest mammal. So we have… trumpet fanfare



Early rounds, the battle occurs in the better-ranked species’ habitat (home court advantage). BUT once we get to the ELITE EIGHT, battle location will be random: steppe, boreal forest, wetland, or urban. Battle location in WILD Card determined by coin toss. 

The Wild Card Battle of Thor Hero Shrew vs. King Midas Bat (aka mammalian Viking vs. Spartan) Monday March 7, 2016. Full schedule further below.

All of Mammal March Madness is provided by the tireless efforts of many awesome people…
MMM Co-Organizing Team ROLL CALL!
Dr. Katie Hinde, Associate Professor, School of Human Evolution & Social Change, Center for Evolution and Medicine, Arizona State University

Dr. Josh Drew, Lecturer, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, Columbia University

Dr. Kristi Lewton, Assistant Professor, Department of Cell and Neurobiology, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California

Dr. Chris Anderson, Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Dominican University

Dramatization of hotly contested Numbat vs. Quokka, Round 1 #2015MMM; photo by Stephanie Meredith at Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, Mammal Collection

And since science is most badass when paired with kickass art- we are so excited to welcome back the artists of Cirque Du Rouge to once again astound and astonish us with incredible creations! Tattoo artist and scientific illustrator Charon Henning is coordinating the artistic side of the tournament. & we have this year’s logo thanks to Cyn Rudzis!

And the American Society of Mammalogists will once again be tweeting photos from their Mammal Images Library. All the images there are free to download, and higher res files of all the images can be requested. The big bonus for the Mammal Images Library is that all the images have correct IDs and are up-to-date taxonomically. What an amazing resource!

We are also joined by the Stone Lab at ASU & @mwilsonsayres, tweeting genetics fun facts about the species throughout the tournament!
Follow the action on twitter #2016MMM or see storify archive posted here daily once the tournament launches. 

Here are the twitter accounts to follow: @Mammals_Suck, @KristiLewton, @Drew_Lab, @c_n_anderson, @TheOddAngel, @RacoonMoon@Cirque_Du_Rouge, @Mammalogists, @StoneLab_ASU, @mwilsonsayres, & here’s hoping @HarvardMuseums and @goCMNH get in on the action tweeting natural history collection pics again. But you should follow all of these accounts just as a matter of principle.

Educators & Parents & other here just for the facts– I recommend following @2016MMMletsgo. Helmed by a high school senior from the Chicago area, soon on her way to Brown University to be class of 2020, Emma curates only the bout tweets and not spectator #TrashTalk that comes through if you follow the hashtag #2016MMM.
If this is your first year playing, check out info from 2015, 2014, 2013; the Wikipedia page(thanks Human Person & Brendan McDermott!); and these examples of the amazing radioand printmedia coverage from 2015. 

Week One          
3/7/2016    Wild Card            M
3/8/2016    Chill                     T
3/9/2016    Mascots              W
3/10/2016  Mighty Giants     Th
3/11/2016  Nouns                 F
Week Two          
3/14/2016  MG & C              M
3/16/2016  M&N                   W
3/17/2016  Sweet 16            TH
Week Three                
3/21/2016  Elite Trait            M
3/22/2016  Final Roar           T

3/24/2016  FINAL BATTLE  TH

We’ll live tweet the battles on twitter in the evenings (~8:30 PM Eastern)

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 its 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: 1 plays (crushes) 16, 2 plays 15…
Oh and just like the military, or the hunger games, and to some extent in academia- it’s up or out. As soon as a species loses, it’s out of the tournament.

Mechanics of filling out a #2016MMM bracket.
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 mammals just because they are pathetic at this kind of battle (although hopefully well-suited to their particular ecological niche). For example, my primate picks in 2013 performed dismally because my well-established monkey agenda was in direct opposition to reality that apes totally wiped the floor with them. 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 Madness exciting. Like last year when #3 seed Quokka exited stage left for those sweet burger rings allowing #14 seed Numbat to advance!!! OMG! WHO SAW THAT COMING!?!?!?!

and may the odds be every in your favor.

Even FANCIER bracket option from #2016MMM fan Will Nickley

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