As a young girl, Katie Hinde became quite excited when her dad was preparing to watch the Bengals vs. the Bears on TV. It seems she was expecting this:

Tiger Vs. Sloth Bear from "Dicky" Singh

What an education for the then four year old as she did not see a single tiger OR bear on TV that day and instead saw men in padded uniforms playing football!

Now, Katie is an Assistant Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. She studies how mother's milk influences infant development in rhesus monkeys. She also maintains a blog called Mammals Suck...Milk! She has come up with a fantastic way to combine America's excitement over the upcoming March Madness for college basketball with real life mammalian competition to use it as an access point or talking about mammalian species by creating a virtual competition that pits carnivores against primates against a "hodge podge" and grazers and browsers against each other! (All of you herpetologists, entomologists, ornithologists, ichthyologists, etc. will have to make your own bracket, sorry). Please note that this is a make-believe competition and there will be no real animal-animal fights carried out to determine the winner of the Mammal March Madness! It is merely an opportunity for all of use to think about how animals live and survive in their environment!

What do you have to do to play? First, print yourself a copy of the bracket form:

Fill it out (and for fun, post a photo of you and your filled out form on twitter so Katie can find it (#2013MMM) or mail it to her at katiehinde@gmail.com) based on your knowledge of relative animal size/mass, the offensive weapons they have at their disposal (antlers, horns, canine teeth, claws), defensive mechanisms (running, camouflage, etc), their basic temperaments (aggressive or not?) and take a guess who would win. I have my beloved sloths and otters doing pretty well, but never meeting in the final round. I think realistically, tigers will do them in.

THEN, tune in to twitter everyday (starting TODAY!) to follow the live tweets from @Mammals Suck of the bouts at 3pm Eastern Monday thru Thursday (the remaining times will be announced later). Hashtag is #2013MMM.

March 11 Mon Wild Card Match-Up Titi Monkeys vs. Naked Mole Rats showdown to see who will take on Gorilla First Round!

March 12 Tue First Round! Carnivores, Primates,

March 13 Wed First Round! Grazers & Browsers, Hodge Podge

March 14 Thu Second Round! Carnivores, Primates, Grazers & Browsers, Hodge Podge

March 16 Sat Clade & Grade Semi-Finals

March 17 Sun Clade and Grade Finals

March 18 Mon Clade and Grade Mammalia Semi Finals

March 19 Tue Mammalia FINAL GAME!!! WHO WILL IT BE!?!?!

Match commentary and outcome will be "live-tweeted" ~3:00 PM Eastern Time via Twitter (follow @Mammals_Suck) with full results posted on her blog shortly thereafter.

If you don't know how brackets work, Katie provides a FAQ section that clarifies a lot of things, so check it out!

I hope you will join in. Get your kids involved. Tell teachers, too! I can see very excited classrooms full of kids who would love to guess which animal will "win"!