March Mammal Madness

March Mammal Madness is an alternate March Madness tournament focusing on simulated combat between non-human mammals, instead of college basketball. The bracket is run by a team of evolutionary biologists, using science and probability to determine the outcomes of the fights. The goal of Mammal March Madness is to provide a fun and exciting way to spread scientific knowledge about the competing animals, as well as awareness for animal conservation.


March Mammal Madness dates back to 2013, when founder Katie Hinde discovered a Buzzfeed Animal Madness bracket online. She was disappointed to find it only contained 16 animals and that the outcomes were based solely on their cuteness, rather than science. In response she created March Mammal Madness, containing a 64 animal bracket with the goal of mixing fun narrated battles with scientific research of the many species involved.[2]

Katie Hinde, originally an assistant professor in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University[3] and currently an associate professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University,[4] later brought in three other educators to help her organize the event. This includes assistant professor at Boston University School of Medicine Kristi Lewton, lecturer at Columbia University Joshua Drew, and assistant professor at Dominican University Christopher Anderson. Along with these educators, the artist Charon Henning provides artwork of the various mammal competitors throughout the whole tournament.[3] Together, they heavily research all of the combatants, using what they learn to provide an entertaining and informative experience.[2]

In 2017, more educators were added on to the March Mammal Madness team to help with the competition. This includes Ph.D. student at the University of Notre Dame Mauna Dasari, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Notre Dame Marc Kissel, post-doctoral researcher and instructor at the University of Utah Patrice Kurnath Connors, visiting assisting professor for the department of biological sciences at Southern Illinois University Danielle Lee, and associate professor and curator of mammals at the Texas A&M University Jessica Light. Two other educators were added to tweet about genetics, genomics, and the phylogeny of the various mammals participating. This includes Anne Stone of the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, and Melissa Wilson Sayres from the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University. [5]


The bracket itself is modeled after the NCAA championship, including an Elite Eight and a Final Four. The bracket is divided into four divisions, which change yearly.[6] The 64 animals are chosen and put into the various divisions based on their characteristics. In the 2015 bracket, the chosen divisions were Mighty Mini Mammals, Mythical Mammals, Critically Endangered Mammals, and Sexy Beasts. Mammals such as the dwarf mongoose and the Java mouse-deer were chosen for the Mighty Mini Mammals, while legendary beasts such as Ratatoskr and the Yeti battled it out in the Mythical Mammals.[3] The mammals compete against others in their division, eventually working their way down to the Final Four (one from each division), and finally the championship.


The battles are decided by a mix of scientific research, and an element of chance. Katie Hinde and the March Mammal Madness organizing team do in-depth research on the mammal contestants. Temperament, diet, social behavior, environment, size, and fight style are just a few of the factors that are taken into consideration.[6] After these factors are weighed against each other, Hinde and the rest determine probability of one animal defeating another. This is how they develop the seed, or rank, of each mammal. Then a 100 sided die is rolled with a determined percentage numbers attributed to each animal. This adds an element of chance, since out in nature nothing is 100% guaranteed. Additionally, the environment in which the encounter takes place can be a major factor in the outcome. For the first few rounds, each fight takes place in the environment of the higher seeded animal. After the Sweet Sixteen, it is chosen at random and announced immediately prior to the encounter.[7]

Combining research with an element of chance has led to some major upsets, just like with any sports bracket. In round one of the 2015 Mighty Mini Mammal division, the 14th-seeded numbat defeated the 3rd-seed quokka. The research is then used to create a narrative to explain the loss.[7] The narratives can range from a serious battle, to humorous happenstance. In 2014, research showed the pangolin to be the most trafficked animal on the planet. Before the match even began, the pangolin was captured by poachers and shipped away, forfeiting the fight.[8] Each round has a scheduled day and time, found on Katie Hinde's blog, Mammals Suck... Milk!.[8]

Instead of just announcing the winners, the written narratives are live-tweeted like the match was happening that very moment. Fans can follow along and tweet back using the designated March Mammal Madness hashtag, creating a fun and exciting atmosphere where people can learn about the animals they support.[6]

In 2017, the wildcard match was performed as a live-action movie to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the tournament. The wildcard match was also done with four mammal competitors instead of the usual two. Members of the March Mammal Madness team dressed up as the competing mammals and acted out the battle in front of a green screen. The battle was then edited together and the final video was tweeted out during the first day of the 2017 March Mammal Madness season. [5]

In 2018, brief summaries of the battles in the style of sports reporting were added, providing for a short recap of each encounter.[9]

Past battle outcomes

All past battle outcomes and play by plays of the battles can be found on Mammals Suck… Milk!.

All tables begin with round two, after the first elimination. If no animals advanced the cell is grey, if the animal was the champion the cell is gold.[8][10]


Divisions: Carnivores, Primates, Grazers and Browsers, and Hodge Podge

Division [8] Round 2 Sweet Sixteen Elite Eight Final Four Semi-Finals Champion
Carnivores Tiger, honey badger, river otter, elephant seal, hyena, lion, leopard seal, polar bear Honey badger, elephant seal, lion, polar bear Elephant seal, polar bear Elephant seal
Primates Gorilla, Hanuman langur, hamadryas, Anubis baboon, gelada, chimpanzee, uakari, orangutan Gorilla, Anubis baboon, chimpanzee, orangutan Gorilla, chimpanzee Gorilla
Grazers/Browers Elephant, oryx, tapir, bison, moose, hippo, elk, rhino Elephant, bison, hippo, rhino Elephant, hippo Elephant Elephant Elephant[7]
Hodge Podge Kangaroo, platypus, armadillo, possum, flying fox, warthog, sloth, koala Armadillo, kangaroo, warthog, sloth Kangaroo, warthog Warthog Warthog

Animals who did not advance to round two: ferret, wolverine, leopard, meerkat, coyote, fennec fox, Tasmanian devil, island fox, dik-dik, camel, wildebeest, gerenuk, reindeer, gazelle, giraffe, duiker, shrew, anteater, wombat, ground squirrel, capybara, sugar glider, red panda, tenrec, naked mole rat, dusky titi monkey, rhesus macaque, lemur catta, bush baby, capuchin, tamarin, red colobus, marmoset.[8]


Divisions: Social Mammals, Marine Mammals, Who In The What Now, and Fossil Mammals

Division [8] Round 2 Sweet Sixteen Elite Eight Final Four Semi-Finals Champion
Social Mammals Hyena. musk ox, hamadryas, mandrill, Ethiopian wolf, Tibetan macaque, African wild dogs, army ants Hyena, African wild dogs, musk ox, army ants Hyena, musk ox Hyena Hyena Hyena[7]
Marine Mammals Orca, sea lion, walrus, humpback whale, bowhead whale, oceanic whitetip shark, dwarf sperm whale, polar bear Polar bear, orca, humpback whale, oceanic whitetip shark Orca, oceanic whitetip shark Orca Orca
Who In The What Now dhole, binturong, cassowary, caracal, saiga, wallaroo, fossa, babirusa Babirusa, wallaroo, binturong, dhole Babirusa, binturong Babirusa
Fossil Mammals Mastodon, Paraceratherium, woolly rhino, short-faced bear, giant hyena, sabertooth cat, giant ground sloth, Neanderthal Mastodon, Paraceratherium, woolly rhino, giant ground sloth Paraceratherium, mastodon Paraceratherium

Animals who did not advance to round two: titi monkey, dingo, meerkat, beaver, marmot, bush dog, hyrax, bandicoot, fisher, saki, Sunda colugo, pangolin, echidna, olinguito, mara, A. afarensis, A. sediba, dire wolf, aurochs, giant giraffid, megalania, rhino wombat, giant baboon, Godzilla platypus, sea otter, beluga whale, harbor seal, river dolphin, hooded seal, ringed seal, narwhal, manatee.[8]


Divisions: Mighty Minis, Critically Endangered, Mythical Mammals, and Sexy Beasts

Division [8] Round 2 Sweet Sixteen Elite Eight Final Four Semi-Finals Champion
Mighty Minis Fennec fox, desert rain frog, pygmy rabbit, tenrec, pygmy marmoset, numbat, Java mouse-deer, dwarf mongoose Fennec fox, tenrec, numbat, dwarf mongoose Tenrec, dwarf mongoose Dwarf mongoose Dwarf mongoose
Critically Endangered Sumatran rhino, tenkile, Visayan warty pig, crested black macaque, Iberian lynx, Mediterranean monk seal, northern muriqui, tamaraw Sumatran rhino, crested black macaque, Mediterranean monk seal, tamaraw Sumatran rhino, tamaraw Sumatran rhino Sumatran rhino Sumatran rhino[7]
Mythical Mammals Cath Palug, Unicorn, Rougarou, Yeti, Leucrocotta, Ratatoskr, Hanuman, Minotaur Cath Palug, Yeti (now a Were-Yeti), Leucrocotta, Minotaur Were-Yeti, Minotaur Were-Yeti
Sexy Beasts Amphicyonidae, lion, Daeodon, brown bear, wolverine, Gigantopithecus, kangaroo, elephant seal Amphicyonidae, brown bear, Gigantopithecus, elephant seal Brown bear, elephant seal Brown bear

Animals who did not advance to round two: jerboa, bumblebee bat, tent-making bat, pygmy mouse lemur, least weasel, pygmy possum, quokka, social tuco-tuco, dormouse, Kanko, Pegasus, Pooka, Ichneumon, Water Horse, Greek Sphinx, Kishi, Colo Colo, yellow-bellied marmot, bighorn sheep, olive baboon, vervet monkey, bongo, koala, Irish elk, European hare, silver pika, black dorcopsis, cloud rat, Siau Island tarsier, Javan slow loris, riverine rabbit, saola, Sibree's dwarf lemur.[8]


Divisions: Cold-Adapted Mammals, Mighty Giants, Mammal Mascots, and Mammals of the Nouns. For the mascot mammal bracket, the university and the mammal the mascot represents are linked separately. [1]

Division [8] Round 2 Sweet Sixteen Elite Eight Final Four Semi-Finals Champion
Cold-Adapted Mammals Polar bear, hoary marmot, Arctic fox, takin, Pallas' cat, wolverine, Andean mountain cat, snow leopard Polar bear, Takin, Wolverine, Snow Leopard Polar bear, Wolverine Wolverine
Mighty Giants Giant panda, Indian giant squirrel, giant anteater, giant river otter, greater mouse deer,

large tree shrew, giant flying fox, giant forest hog

Giant panda, giant anteater, greater mouse deer, giant forest hog Giant panda, giant forest hog Giant forest hog Giant forest hog
Mammal Mascots Howard bison, Quinnipiac bobcat, West Point mules, UW badger, UA Russian boar, UT longhorn,

CSU bighorn sheep, Coast Guard Acad bear

Howard Bison, West Point Mules, UT Longhorn, Coast Guard Acad Bear Howard Bison, UT Longhorn Howard Bison
Mammals of the Nouns Goat of the Mountain, Hyrax of the Rock, Wallaby of the Swamp, Otter of the Sea, Dog of the Bush,

Porcupine of the Cape, Polecat of the Steppe, Wolf of the Tundra

Goat of the Mountain, Otter of the Sea, Porcupine of the Cape, Wolf of the Tundra Goat of the Mountain, Wolf of the Tundra Wolf of the Tundra Wolf of the Tundra Wolf of the Tundra

Mammals who did not advance to round two: lemming, snow monkey, caribou, snowshoe hare, Antarctic fur seal, stoat, vicuña, Siberian chipmunk, Haverford black squirrel, Schoolcraft College Ocelots, Santa Clara bronco, Penn State mountain lions, Lethbridge pronghorn, Naval Academy goat, Texas A&M javelina, Yale bulldog, Thor hero shrew, giant cloud rat, giant elephant shrew, giant otter shrew, greater dwarf lemur, giant armadillo, giant flying squirrel, giant mole rat, shrew of the water, viscacha of the mountain, rabbit of the volcano, pocket gopher of the mountain, dog of the prairie, baby of the bush, cat of the sand, vole of the bank [1]


Divisions: Adjective Mammals, Coulda Shoulda, Desert Adapted, and Two Animals One Mammal

Division [5] Round 2 Sweet Sixteen Elite Eight Final Four Semi-Finals Champion
Adjective Mammals Spectacled bear, spotted skunk, white-headed capuchin, screaming hairy armadillo, pouched rat, maned wolf, linsang, clouded leopard Spectacled bear, white-headed capuchin, maned wolf, clouded leopard Spectacled bear, clouded leopard Spectacled bear
Coulda Shoulda sabertooth cat, Greek sphinx, Neanderthal hunting party, giraffe, tiger, leopard seal, Pegasus, short-faced bear Greek sphinx, Neanderthal hunting party, leopard seal, short-faced bear Neanderthal hunting party, short-faced bear Short-faced bear Short-faced bear Short-faced bear
Desert Adapted Honey badger, gila monster, ringtail, aardwolf, Tibetan sand fox, saiga, South American gray fox, guanaco Honey badger, aardwolf, saiga, guanaco Honey badger, guanaco Honey badger Honey badger
Two Animals One Mammal Bear cat, tiger quoll, antelope squirrel, spider monkey, bear cuscus, hog badger, hog deer, leopard cat bear cat, spider monkey, hog badger, hog deer Spider monkey, hog deer Spider monkey

Animals who did not advance to round two: snow leopard, fisher, rhesus macaque, sac-winged bat, long-tailed pangolin, burrowing bettong, hairy-nosed wombat, bat-eared fox, red squirrel, brown-throated sloth, silky anteater, southern marsupial mole, meerkat, patas monkey, marbled polecat, bilby, long-eared hedgehog, sand cat, jerboa, giant red flying squirrel, lion, leopard, fossil baboon, dire wolf, giant armadillo, Irish elk, quokka, shrew mole, raccoon dog, otter civet, kangaroo rat, mouse opossum, deer mouse, squirrel monkey, grasshopper mouse [5]


Divisions: Antecessors, Great Adaptations, When the Kat's Away, and Urban Jungle

Division Round 2 Sweet Sixteen Elite Eight Final Four Semi-Finals Champion
Antecessors Doedicurus, Thalassocnus, Thylacoleo, Andrewsarchus, Pseudaelurus, Dimetrodon, Homo floresiensis, Amebelodon Doedicurus, Andrewsarchus, Dimetrodon, Amebelodon Doedicurus, Amebelodon Amebelodon Amebelodon
Great Adaptations pygmy hippo, maned rat, water deer, Tasmanian devil, jaguarundi, crabeater seal, aye-aye, cheetah pygmy hippo, Tasmanian devil, crabeater seal, cheetah pygmy hippo, cheetah pygmy hippo pygmy hippo pygmy hippo
When the Kat's Away Orinoco crocodile, Goliath tarantula, secretary bird, mantis shrimp, Eurasian eagle owl, Komodo dragon, common octopus, green anaconda Orinoco crocodile, secretary bird, Komodo dragon, green anaconda Orinoco crocodile, green anaconda Orinoco crocodile
Urban Jungle Harar hyena, Bristol fox, sewer rat, coyote, bobcat, Berlin boar, porcupine, Cape Town baboon Harar hyena, coyote, Berlin boar, porcupine coyote, porcupine coyote

Animals who did not advance to round two: Jugulator, Thalassocnus, Procoptodon, Nuralagus rex, Archaeoindris, Aegyptopithecus, Palaeoloxodon, Deinogalerix, star-nosed mole, platypus, solenodon, ghost bat, desman, edible dormouse, coatimundi, fat-tailed dunnart, goldcrest, praying mantis, Bothrops asper, horseshoe crab, alligator snapping turtle, beaded lizard, giant salamander, cookiecutter shark, tardigrade, Belo Horizonte marmoset, raccoon, Moscow dog, opossum, striped skunk, eastern gray squirrel, Delhi rhesus, hedgehog.

Alt Advance

In 2018, the tardigrade advanced several rounds without winning. In the When the Kat's Away division, the anaconda didn't see it, but was the official winner. The tardigrade continued to ride each winning animal, thus becoming an "alt-champion."


  1. "Mammal March Madness 2016!".
  2. Adam Cole (March 6, 2015). "Could A Quokka Beat A Numbat? Oddsmakers Say Yes". NPR.
  3. Peter Reuell (March 4, 2015). "Mammal March Madness". Harvard Gazette.
  4. Hinde, Katie. "March Mammal Madness tournament shows the power of 'performance science'". The Conversation. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  5. "March Mammal Madness 2017".
  6. Barbara Brotman (March 8, 2015). "Mammal March Madness is beloved animal version of NCAA championship". Chicago Tribune.
  7. Kevin Hartnett (March 18, 2015). "Mammal March Madness: Imaginary death matches in the animal kingdom". The Boston Globe.
  8. Katie Hinde (February 16, 2015). "Mammal March Madness 2015". Katie Hinde's Blog: Mammals Suck... Milk!.
  9. "March Mammal Madness adds sports summaries and non-mammals". The Arizona State Press. Retrieved 2018-10-29.
  10. Paul Heltzel (March 16, 2015). "Mammal March Madness: Fill Out Your Bracket". Discovery News.
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