March Mammal Madness: The Winner Is...

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We have a winner of March Mammal Madness! With more than 4,600 voting in the final round for the nickname for our hypothetical placental ancestor, the winner is... Schrëwdinger.

Schrëwdinger visits the Hall of Primitive Mammals at the Museum

© AMNH/D. Finnin

The nickname is a play on the famous 1930s thought experiment known as Schrödinger's cat. Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger wanted to test a tenet of quantum mechanics on objects larger than microscopic particles: could a large organism (and not just, say, an atom) be in two states at once? Could a cat, for instance, be both alive and dead at the same time? 

The name Schrëwdinger was first thought up by Ross Wagner. (He will receive prizes−Museum tickets and a poster of Schrëwdinger−for devising the winning name.)

Though the mammalian evolutionary tree of life points to the probability that our common ancestor was a small, shrewlike, furry-tailed creature, researchers have found no fossil of the species, and so it remains hypothetical—in a way, our ancestor is then both real and unreal, a bit like Schrödinger's cat could be alive and dead. 

In any case, we've grown quite fond of Schrëwdinger during March Mammal Madness.

Morphobank common ancestor

An artist’s rendering of the hypothetical placental ancestor, a small insect-eating animal.

Carl Buell

Hope you have, too! Thank you for playing, thanks to Radiolab for its enthusiasm and energy throughout March Mammal Madness, and for helping give our ancestor a name.