Mammal Madness in the animal kingdom

Science classes participate in a bracket tournament

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ASU

This displays a blank bracket that students filled out with the different categories representing the groups of animals displayed in the tournament.

Jasmine Hermosillo-Padilla , Editor-in-Chief Catalyst Online

Throughout the month of March, thousands of people create brackets to rank anything from sports teams to favorite local restaurants.

For Biology and Zoology classes, teacher Kristen Holzer proposed the idea of Mammal Madness brackets, inspired by the traditional March Madness. 

“A professor at Arizona State University started this tournament back in 2013,” Holzer said. “I have seen it on several education Facebook groups I belong to, and people in these groups were so excited for it to start again this year, so I decided to give it a go.” 

At the beginning of the month, students were given a week to fill out their bracket and predict the ultimate winner before the simulated battles started. 

The bracket was broken up into four categories based on species. “Tricksy Taxonomy” consisted of animals such as a Kinda Baboon, a Mara, a Red Wolf and an Egyptian Fruit Bat. Another category, “Red In Fur,” included a Red Kangaroo, a Red Ruffed Lemur and a Flying Fox. “Of Myths and Monsters” and “Sea Beasties” had various fishes, crabs, wasps and salamanders. 

Biology classes were required to fill out the bracket as a grade, but for Zoology classes this was a fun opportunity to expand their knowledge. 

Students were motivated to make the best choices in these battles to win a prize for being the most accurate overall. 

The outcomes of each are influenced by the probabilistic functions of the animals in a conflict with another species and random chance. Factors that can change the results include the ecology of the battle and the way that the animal can adapt to it. This can affect the ability of the animal to fight the other.

“Honestly, my strategy was just the higher seed with some minor upsets,” freshmanDevin Transaid. “I was in the lead with my bracket for most of the time until a few of my animals lost which made the rest of the bracket fall.”

For battles such as a Black Dragonfish versus a Vampire Squid, it took place underwater, giving both animals a home advantage in an environment they are familiar with. After battling, one advances to the next 

As the rounds go on, points go up by one and participants can receive points for every correct matchup winner.

A YouTube channel created by the university, displays combat competitions between the two animals chosen for that round. These videos are uploaded after the live battle premiers on their Twitter account. 

During the videos, a beaver puppet who acts as the host recaps the fights and displays them with instant replays and commentary from the original video. 

“I feel like watching these videos was a very interesting way to start off my day,” senior Jenna Reynolds said. “This was a very entertaining way to learn about different animals and species that we wouldn’t specifically learn about in class.” 

Along with the videos, Holzer created a bigger version of the bracket to display for students to see how the tournament was turning out. She updated this weekly as each round was battled.

After totaling the scores of all of the students during the final days, it was announced that freshman Kailee Eisma had won the snack of her choice as a prize for having the most points and most accurate bracket. She had also predicted the overall winner, which was the Red Kangaroo. 

“My strategy was to look up the animals and see advantages, sizes and diets of animals to see the odds of winning against the animal they were going against,” Eisma said. “The home habitat advantage numbers also helped me figure out the odds of who would advance in each round.”

With multiple classes participating, this traditional tournament led to a friendly competition within the class.