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March Mammal Madness, an entertaining and educational ‘tourney’ about wildlife instead of sports teams

A Silverback gorilla. (iStock)

Basketball fans look forward to March all year, filling out their brackets in anticipation of the NCAA college basketball tournament. But for animal lovers, there’s another option: March Mammal Madness, a bracketed “tournament” that pits mammals against one another with the help of a group of scientists with a fondness for fun.

The month-long tourney uses social media to imagine how 64 animals might fare if they ever met in the wild. Participants can fill out a bracket and choose the animals they think will prevail. Then they can watch the competition unfold online, where the animal specialists behind the annual program use facts about each animal’s temperament, habitat, build, fight style and more to determine a winner.

Each battle is narrated “live” on Twitter, adding photos and imagining the animals duking it out. (No, the fight isn’t always to the death.) And there’s always plenty of trash talk using the #2021MMM hashtag.

March Mammal Madness has been happening since 2013, when it was founded by Katie Hinde, an Arizona State University associate professor who studies mother’s milk in mammals. In a recent paper in the journal eLife, Hinde and colleagues documented the educational benefit of the tourney, which has exposed participants to over 1,100 scholarly works and reached about 1 percent of high school students in the United States in 2019.

“For a few weeks each year, a vibrant and diverse March Mammal Madness community comes together to collectively marvel at our living planet’s beauty, harshness, and fragility,” they write. Their hope is that the project can inspire students and the public to become advocates for animal protection.

Ready to fill out your bracket? Visit to get yours, and learn more about the tournament.