March Madness Is for Other Mammals, Too

Here's the initial bracket for Mammal March Madness. You can help us fill in the blanks. University of Arizona

Who said March Madness was only for basketball lovers? In the high season of brackets, there's room for all types — which is where animal lovers come in.

2018 marks the sixth annual March Mammal Madness, an event put on by professors at Arizona State University (ASU) that mimics the annual 64-team, single-elimination NCAA Division I basketball tournament. It pits mammals and non-mammals in bracket matchups of simulated survival, but don't worry: this isn't a gruesome "fight to the death" scenario. It's more thoughtful than that.

As a story in The Conversation written by some of the people behind the scenes explains: "Instead of human athletes, it features simulated animal battles that reflect attributes of each competing species, including temperament, size, weaponry, armor and fight style."

The organizers "script" the battles, using their knowledge of the species to "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," explain the rules for the bracket challenge. Their commentary and expertise is half the fun:

March Mammal Madness is collective, performance science – the story of animals, told with imagination, creativity and awe for the natural world. We celebrate species and the ecosystems they inhabit, scientists who conduct studies, funders who make the research possible and the irreverence of the human spirit, which makes triumph and defeat opportunities for mad trash talk. This tournament is a love letter to science, about science and from science for all who participate.

Like educators around the nation, Mother Nature Network is participating with a bracket, and we want you to help us. We'll post our bracket on our sister Twitter account, Planet Green. We'll use Twitter polls to get your input during the week to determine which animals we advance to the next round of the bracket.

Much like the basketball tournament, the experts running the bracket challenge will announce winners on a schedule throughout March. We'll keep you updated via twitter.

In the end, we'll learn what our collective MNN and Planet Green community can do in the March Mammal Madness bracket challenge. Are you in?!