It’s that time of year again! Mammal March Madness has arrived! 

This is the annual tournament of simulated combat between mammal species organized by four biologists. 65 species enter … and only one is crowned the champion. Here’s how it works:

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 first bout - a wildcard match between the Thor Hero Shrew and the King Midas Bat has already finished (winner: HERO SHREW) - but you still have time to fill out your bracket before the first round of regular match-ups (the “chill mammal” division) begins tonight. Download your bracket here and fill it out!

You can follow the matches on twitter via the #2016MMM hashtag. Tournament schedule:

Week One
3/8    Chill
3/9    Mascots
3/10  Mighty Giants
3/11  Nouns                 

Week Two
3/14  MG & C
3/16  M&N
3/17  Sweet 16

Week Three
3/21  Elite Trait
3/22  Final Roar
3/24  Championship

My favorite to win? Ursus maritimus.

Here’s my terrible, punny sports-radio style send-up of last year’s competition:

The illustrations in the poster up top were created by Charon Henning - check out more of her artwork here.


Polar Bears of Svalbard 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 by Mike Reyfman | Website

“Polar bears are thought to be the only animal to actively hunt humans. There are reasons such attacks are relatively uncommon. One is that, for a polar bear, the risk from attacking humans is higher, and the reward much lower, than when hunting for seals. Another is that the number of humans who venture into polar bear territory remains somewhat low.”

“A fat bear will never attack a man. It can approach out of curiosity. The most consistent feature in polar bears that attack humans for predatory reasons: they are always skinny — either because they are young, and so have not yet learned to hunt properly, or because the environment has conspired against them.”

“The sinister aspect of a polar bear is that it has no facial expressions. You can read the intentions of a lion, tiger or leopard by watching curling lip or ears laid back. But the polar bears gives no inkling of his mood. Their comic appearance conceals their brute force and explosive action, and only dip in their eyes you can catch a sight of fast approaching problem…”

“We were shooting from the Zodiac right next to the floe. Big skinny male polar bear was approaching so fast that in a split-second our cameras stopped focusing and photo-shoot has ended with a little panic but timely retreat…”

“More about our expeditions here”: