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Obituary: Dr Leonard P. Annectens (1977–2017)

9 June 2017

The most shocking news of the decade - our distinguished colleague Dr Leonard P. Annectens is no more. He has had a long and productive life, author of numerous publications, and mentor to generations of students. Much missed by his long-term partner Acanthostega gunnari. Leonard enjoyed his prawns last week, but had been looking peaky for a wee while. His devoted attendants, Frances Boreham, Nick Hayes, and Sula Milani had sought to make him comfortable in his last days, and all thanks to them.

It is only once in a lifetime that one encounters such a scholar as Dr Leonard P. Annectens. He had a major impact on generations of students and staff in the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol.

A typical response came from final-year student Emily Keeble, “So heartbroken to hear about Dr Annectens yesterday - I would not have got through university without his eternally zen presence. Rest in peace, you beautiful fish.”

 An academic colleague, Professor Hiram Q. Pipesucker of the University of Paskapoo commented, “Dr Annectens’ contributions to the Journal of Red Herrings were full of gritty realism – sometimes also shreds of waterweed. He would send us manuscripts every three or four years, but they tended to be a bit damp. After we had dried them out, we typically found they contained some unexpected nuggets…. mainly chicken nuggets. Dr Annectens had been criticised for his philosophical stance, having been seen as a conservative wet, but he never floundered when pinning down a slippery concept.”

Our erstwhile colleague’s origins and early training are murky. His only recollection was about his grandmother – “a decent enough old trout,” he said. His philosophical stance was shaped during a childhood spent in a muddy hole in southern Africa where he absorbed many influences from the surrounding sediment. His early potential was recognized when he was found languishing in a pet shop in Filton by Drs David Hone and Graeme Lloyd. They initiated the negotiations that brought him to the University of Bristol in 2004.

In the wilds of Africa, Dr Annectens sometimes reminisced about his early life, feeding on shellfish, amphibians and plants. In his Bristol phase, he particularly favoured shrimp and shredded chicken. He enjoyed having a team of freshwater snails sharing his tank, and they would gather round to hear his pearls of wisdom. He absent-mindedly then ate them.

Leonard graduated tuna cum laude from the University of Muddy Backwater with a thesis on “Survival tactics for dry conditions”. His thesis was so substantial it broke the scales; in fact, lifting it around developed his mussels.

Dr Annectens drove a hard bargain in securing his academic position in Bristol. He refused a personal chair because he said he would simply slide out of it. But he insisted on a substantial start-up package, in fact a newspaper parcel full of shrimps. After that, everything went swimmingly.

Eventually, a proper office location was identified for him, in the heart of the building, so he could observe and be observed by the community. He dignified his tank by his stately presence, receiving visitors with benign equanimity.

When the palaeontologists moved to the new Life Sciences Building in 2014, Dr Annectens simply refused to budge. “You may call me a stick-in-the-mud,” he said at the time, “but I know a good hole when I see one.”

As clarified on his official home page, Leonard’s position was as ‘Departmental lungfish’. The School of Earth Sciences if Bristol was fortunate to have been able to fill this post; generally, they stand empty because of onerous visa restrictions. His departmental responsibilities were “Entertaining visitors; educating research students; being a "living fossil"; hiding behind a rock, and generally keeping an eye on things.” He did not always perform his tasks with a good grace; “he was a pretty grumpy member of staff,” said Frances Boreham, one of his disciples.

 Dr Annectens had a wide range of research interests, as specified on his Home page, including “Observing human behaviour from an aquatic environment. Elucidating the evolutionary relationship of dipnoans and tetrapods”. It could be said that he had not made a great amount of progress in his studies because he devoted considerable time to improving his pout.

Of his modest count of publications (see below). His most successful was his 2010 paper about Dope’s Rule, in the Journal of Revolutionary Biology, which also made it to the front page.

Over the years, Dr Annectens has supervised a growing number of research students. Their duties have been to sit at his feet (well, flippers) and hear his wise words. One of the first members of his group was Graeme Lloyd, now a Lecturer at the University of Leeds. Graeme recalls that Leonard had a healthy set of gnashers: “He managed to bite me once. But he can’t move his teeth from side to side, so he has to spit his food out and suck it back in to move it around.”

In 2010, in an unusually populist move, Dr Annectens entered the sports prediction world, billed as the Psychic Sarcopterygian – he correctly predicted the semi-final winners at the World Cup, as the Netherlands and Spain, but he must have had an off day when he sought to predict the final winner. After that he was rather down in the mouth, and said “Never again. I was becoming too complaicent.”

Only once did Dr Annectens show unexpected behaviour. In his early days, while his tank was being cleaned, he squirmed out of his holding bucket and set off down the corridor. His attendants were astounded, but tracked him down pretty quickly. He left a slimy trail acros the carpet. “Why did you do that?” he was asked. “I was short of money, so I was heading to the prawnbrokers,” he snapped, in a crabby tone.

 Further information

Dr Annectens’ Home Page.

BBC News 

Facebook page

Twitter feed

Academia page- Dr. Annectens has 80 followers, although he has not uploaded any of his papers yet

Article in ‘Subtext’, University news magazine (Autumn 2007): Article in The Tab (student newspaper; 2014, p. 14)

Stubbs, T. 2012. Meet Dr Leonard P. Annectens. Synapse Science Magazine, November, 2012

Article in The Tab (student newspaper; 2014)

Dr. Leonard P. Annectens, lungfish, successfully predicts the outcome of the World Cup semifinals: Youtube. 

Dr Leonard P. Annecten's World Cup Final Predictions: Youtube

Dr Leonard P. Annecten - In memoriam


Annectens, L.P, Elliott, T.R., Hawkesworth, C.J. and Norman, M.D. 2002. Tungsten isotope evidence that lungfish contain no contribution from the Earth's core. Nurture427, 234-237.

Annectens, L.P., and Benton, M.J. 2006. Living fossils. Journal of Vertebrate Palaeobolony 20, 77-108.

Annectens, L.P., Rayfield, E.J., and  Bright, J.A. 2017. Scales, and the functional morphology of stringy hind limbs. Journal of Red Herrings245, 587-595.

Hone, D.W.E, and Annectens, L.P. 2010. Macrorevolutionary trends in the Lungfish: Dope's rule. Journal of Revolutionary Biology245, 587-595.

Knorr, W., Prentice, I.C., House J.I., and Annectens, L.P 2007. Long-term sensitivity of lungfish to warming. Nurture933, 298-301.

Mader, H. and Annectens, L.P. 2006. On the development of highly viscous skins of liquid around bubbles, when sneezing under water. Earth and Sanitary Appliance Letters 93, 47-56. 

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