Mammals Fight to the Death in AP Tournament

The winner of March Mammal Madness was the Bengal Tiger.  Photo Credit: Rreze Kadrijaj

The winner of March Mammal Madness was the Bengal Tiger. Photo Credit: Rreze Kadrijaj


March Madness isn’t just for college basketball anymore; it’s also for cheetahs and deer! That’s right folks, you can now pin two species against each other in the science department’s March Mammal Madness, which gathers a variety of species in a life-or-death competition, live streamed through Twitter.     

According to Ms. Jessica Ross, a science teacher, “The organizers send out a worksheet that students have to do. It is directly tied to the AP Biology and AP Environmental Science curriculum -- things like ecology, evolution, and a little bit of genetics. It has practical applications as a part of the Next Generations Science Standards.” 

There are four categories. First is Jump Jump, which is filled with animals with some type of special jump. Next is Waterfalls, which is filled with animals that are good in water but do not necessarily have to live in it. After that is Tag Team, which is filled with animals that work together (one pair fights another pair). Lastly is the Cat-e-gory, which is not filled with cats but rather with animals that have a feline-related word in their name.

In each category, there are four brackets where organisms must fight to move up. When an animal wins the whole category, it must fight the other winners of the other categories to be crowned the ultimate winner.

AP Bio kids worked on the project three times a week for ten minutes at the start of class. 

Jennifer Li ’20, an AP Bio student said, “Research is done on each organism that is participating in the battle, and that helps determine which organism wins in each battle. You pick animals based on multiple factors such as the environment they live in, their diet, their structural adaptations, strengths, and weaknesses.”

Discussions in class went beyond mammals to include big animals like the bengal tiger, small ones such as the spinifex hopping mouse, and tiny ones like ants and aphids. 

Junior Jennifer Li’s burying beetle went against the phoretic mite, an invertebrate. You might think a beetle is physically superior to a mite. However, mites live on top of beetles as a way of transport, and when beetles locate carcasses, mites use the opportunity to feed off the deceased organism.

Not all opponents were conventional. Ashley Chin ‘20 said that the dandelion was the contestant that really surprised her.

However, Mrs. Kimberly Lau explained that even plants could win. She said that the dandelion has “like a hundred seeds in one puff” and is a “fast reproducing” lifeform. This means that, based on its likelihood to survive and reproduce, it could’ve possibly won.

Students said that March Mammal Madness was a fun, comfortable way to learn about animals. 

“March Mammal Madness is a way to talk about an obscure concept like species and relate it to something familiar like basketball,” said Nimrah Naseer ’19, an environmental science student.

Wong said, “I enjoyed the concept of it, where we learned about different organisms but in a more entertaining way, and it was more engaging than reading from a textbook online. We learn about animal behaviors and their traits, as well as adaptations to the wild in order to survive.”

Victoria Delgado ’20 said, “I got to learn about different types of mammals that I had never known about. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the Earth that we live in.”

Tiffany Ngo contributed to this article.

FeaturesCasey Levinson