While college basketball teams have been battling it out on the court, another type of tournament has been raging online. Of course, I’m referring to Mammal March Madness - a simulated combat contest created by Katie Hinde, an assistant professor of biology at Harvard.
Basically, Mammal March Madness takes the school-yard “who would win in a fight” conversation to a much nerdier level. Hinde and her colleagues assess each animal’s abilities in a given environment and use statistical modeling software to determine the outcome of each match-up.
Last year, a skunk bear actually made it to the tournament, but it was quickly eliminated by the honey badger (the fight was staged in the desert, so the honey badger had an unfair advantage). Luckily, the honey badger was eventually defeated, and an elephant went on to win the championship.
This year’s contest included extinct animals and even a few non-mammals (in bold on the bracket). A people’s champion quickly emerged - the #2-seeded Paraceratherium:
But this long-dead, enormous, hornless rhino met a second extinction in the semi-finals.
Yesterday was the 2014 championship, pitting Orca versus Hyena. The randomly selected battlefield was the Hoh Rainforest in Washington State — not exactly familiar turf for either challenger. Hyenas seem to have the advantage, but remember: orcas have been known to beach themselves to attack terrestrial prey.
I’ll let you read the play-by-play of the battle here to learn the exciting outcome.