Beyond March Mammal Madness


Welcome to March Mammal Madness: Real animals wage fictional battles, while students use science—a lot of it—to try to predict the winner. This year’s champion: the short-faced bear! (NPR)

What are mammals? Why are they mad?

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

The Finale of March Mammal Madness came down to short-faced bear v. honey badger. (The first Carnivora vs. Carnivora Championship Battle in March Mammal Madness history!)  Use this as a template to create your own mammal madness tournament!
Illustration by Will Nickley
The winner. (Get the play-by-play here.)
Illustration by Dantheman9758, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-3.0

Discussion Ideas

  • It’s time for March Mammal Madness! What are mammals?
    • A mammal is a class of vertebrate animal with several distinguishing characteristics. Mammals:
      • are hairy. All mammals have at least some hair. (Yes, even naked mole rats and whales.)
        • No other type of animal has true hair.
      • have auditory ossicles. Auditory ossicles are three tiny bones in the middle ear: the malleus (hammer), incus (anvil), and stapes (stirrup). These bones transmit sounds from the air to the inner ear.
        • No other type of animal has true auditory ossicles.
      • have a single jaw bone.
        • Mammals are the only animal with this type of jaw. Way back in mammal evolutionary history, two jaw bones were reduced in size and incorporated into … auditory ossicles. Evolution is awesome, don’t let anyone tell you different.
      • have sweat glands.
        • Primates like us are covered in sweat glands, which help keep our body cool. Other mammals have fewer and in more isolated places (like eyelids and ears).
      • can lactate. Female mammals produce milk to feed their offspring.
      • are endothermic. Mammals are warm-blooded, meaning they are able to maintain a constant body temperature regardless of external influences such as weather.
      • are viviparous. This means female mammals give birth to live young.
        • Many species of amphibians, fish, and reptiles are also viviparous.
        • Monotremes, those weird mammals that include platypuses, are not viviparous.
      • have a four-chambered heart.
    • There are 19 orders of mammals. The three largest orders in terms of number of species are Rodentia (rodents), Chiroptera (bats), and Soricomorpha (shrews, moles, and solenodons).


  • So, we know what mammals are. What’s the madness?
    • March Mammal Madness is an annual tournament developed by scientists, pitting representatives of different categories of mammals against each other.
    • This year’s championship battle pitted the extinct short-faced bear, one of the largest mammalian predators in history, against the honey badger. The ecosystem was chaparral—specifically, the Cape of Good Hope. The short-faced bear ultimately tossed the honey badger out of the way, securing victory. The honey badger ran away, but did not perish.



  • This year’s big four brackets were Adjective Mammals, Coulda Shoulda, Desert Adapted, and Two Animals One Mammal. Take a look at the bracket and see if your students can think of any other examples that could have played in March Mammal Madness.




March Mammal Madness 2017 (Twitter)

March Mammal Madness 2017

NPR: A New Kind Of March Madness Hits Schools

Nat Geo: What are Mammals?

2 thoughts on “Beyond March Mammal Madness

  1. Interesting article about mammals. And cognitive enough. But it is useful to learn more about their March madness.

Leave a Reply