Mammal Madness
A maned wolf was just one of many mammals to make it past the first round of the scientific simulation March Mammal Madness. (Sage Ross - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link)

Because I’m not really into watching sports, it’s easy for me to feel left out each year when March Madness rolls around.

Everyone starts filling out tournament brackets in the hopes of winning various prizes. Meanwhile, I can’t name one starter on the Sooners’ squad, and I have no clue where Gonzaga is even located.

Luckily for me (and other sports luddites), there’s another madness to follow in March. Check out a decidedly more academic tournament: March Mammal Madness.

March Mammal Madness

Now in its fifth year, MMM represents, according to its creators, “a love letter TO the science community and a love letter ABOUT science.”

Basically, it’s a tournament-style simulation pitting various species of mammals against one another in hypothetical confrontations. Scientific facts about each mammal are cited to support and defeat potential scenarios that alternatively lead to hypothetical victory or defeat.

From the Mammals Suck blog, which is where MMM was created and fostered:

Attributes considered in calculating battle outcome include temperament, weaponry, armor, body mass, running speed, fight style, physiology, and motivation.

The concept is the brainchild of Katie Hinde, associate professor of human evolution and social change at Arizona State University. Hinde runs the Mammals Suck blog.

Example: Thor’s hero shrew vs. King Midas bat

The 2016 wild-card round pitted an odd-looking critter called the Thor’s hero shrew against the aerial attack of a King Midas bat. The bat was discovered 40 years ago but only recently classified as a new species.

Past MMM champions

Links below go to each year’s wrap-up. Click on Storify links there for play-by-plays.

2016: Wolf of the tundra

2015: Sumatran rhino

2014: Hyenas

2013: Elephant

Joshua Drew, an ecologist at Columbia University, ran the simulation, which, as self-respecting geeks and nerds should recognize, resembles the unfolding narrative of a Dungeons & Dragons battle (minus dice rolls).

Much of the simulation centered on the shrew’s strong backbone and heavier weight compared to the bat.

Nevertheless, the bat came swooping down for the shrew and was met with the shrew’s tooth-lined jaw, which crippled the bat’s wing. Given that the shrew’s high metabolism encourages a healthy appetite, it was declared the winner.

How to play along

Mammal Madness

Personally, hypothetical mammalian combat online interests me more than watching 10 guys run back and forth in a gym all day and night. If you agree, click on the bracket above, print it out and fill it out. Then, follow March Mammal Madness @2017MMMletsgo or search #2017MMM on Twitter to keep abreast of tournament developments.

Added intrigue: This year’s MMM features mythical creatures, a clan of Neanderthals and a gila monster, which was allowed entry for being the “best heckler” in previous installments.

So far, the wild card and all four divisional round 1s have been decided. The ultimate match-up for the 2017 championship won’t be until March 29. Remaining schedule is as follows (central times):

  • 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Round 2, part 1
  • 7:30 p.m. 3/20, Round 2, part 2
  • 7:30 p.m. 3/21, Sweet Sixteen-All Divisions
  • 7:30 p.m. 3/23 Elite Trait
  • 7:30 p.m. 3/27 Final Roar
  • 7 p.m. 3/29 Championship