In honor of college basketball's biggest moment, we've pitted together nature's fiercest creatures for our own online competition this March.
Get to know our "Sweet 16" teams below. They'll face off on our Nature Conservancy Facebook pages on select tournament dates (March 28, April 2, April 5, April 7-8). Our Facebook fans will decide on which teams advance to the Elite 8, Final Four and championship game. Find your local Facebook page to participate, and then print a PDF of the brackets.
In real life, these critters are facing their toughest rival yet: habitat loss. We're committed to helping nature win.
The legendary great white shark is the largest and most feared predator in the ocean. These massive hunters weigh over 5,000 pounds and can detect blood in the water from up to three miles away.
The wily diamondback terrapin is an excellent swimmer and has strong jaws for crushing shells of clams and snails. They live along coasts as far north as Massachusetts and as far south as Florida.
These little guys make for powerful allies in the face of climate change and extreme weather. Their secret weapon? Hardy oyster reefs that buffer our coasts from waves and improve water quality.
The power of hurricanes is awesome: walls torn from concrete buildings, 20-foot waves crashing to shore. As our planet continues to warm, this extreme weather event will likely grow in strength and frequency!
"Whoooo hoo!" The call of the Great Horned Owl is a classic sound of the wild and can be heard from miles away. This fierce hunter has some serious moves. Its talons can extend to a size of 4x8 inches and can close down on its prey with the force of almost 30 pounds!
Watch out for the wolverine! The largest member of the weasel family, this stocky little critter has guts. It's a powerful predator and scavenger that won't let much get in the way of its next meal.
The largest of the cat species, the tiger is the epitome of power. Nighttime hunters, they sneak as close as possible to their prey before sprinting at their victims and pulling them off of their feet.
In terms of size, the brown bear has got it going on. Think of him as the Shaquille O'Neil of the animal kingdom. Males grow over 6 feet tall and weigh in around 800 pounds, towering over most forest critters.
This mythic bird of prey is known for agility and speed. Its extremely powerful talons allow it to snatch up prey, including rabbits, squirrels, and even large mammals like foxes and goats!
The spiky-tailed, ground-dwelling Sage Grouse is the proud bird king of the western prairie. About the size of a large chicken, the show-offy males are famous for their elaborate mating ritual, in which they puff up their feathery chests to win females' affection.
Hear that howling? It’s the gray wolf calling to his pack. These formidable predators live, travel and hunt in packs of four to seven.
The stalwart Swainson hawk will migrate over 17,000 miles during the year and travel in great flocks that blanket the sky.
The American alligator ranges throughout the American southeast in freshwater marshes, rivers and swamps, where it basks by day and hunts by night.
If you like to cheer for the under-dog, take note. Freshwater mussels play a little-known yet important role in our daily lives. They sit at the bottoms of rivers for years, filtering and cleaning water.
Talk about adaptability! Salmon are born in freshwater, migrate to the ocean, and then return back to freshwater to spawn.
Male mallards, called drakes, sport a distinctive green head and yellow bill. Mallards are thought to be the most abundant duck on Earth.