Department: Comparative Biomedical Sciences

Campus: Hawkshead

Research Groups: Musculoskeletal Biology, CPCS (Research Programme)

Clinical Groups: Gait Analysis

Research Centres: Structure & Motion Laboratory

Alan is Professor of Locomotor Biomechanics and head of the Structure and Motion Lab.  Read about Alan's research here.

Alan graduated from Glasgow University in 1987 having studied Veterinary Medicine and an intercalated BSc in Physiology. He subsequently undertook a PhD in the Anatomy Department at Bristol University where he studied the mechanical basis of tendon injury. He went on to work as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate and then as a lecturer.

Alan moved to the Royal Veterinary College in 1996 where he now holds the post of Professor of Locomotor Biomechanics.

He is a Director of the Company of Biologists, a not-for-profit publishing organisation dedicated to supporting and inspiring the biological community.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 2020.

His research goal is to understand how the musculoskeletal system of athletic animals is configured and used to deliver economical and high-performance locomotion, and the mechanical factors that limit locomotor performance and result in injury. His team has developed and used novel sensor systems and wildlife collars using GPS and inertial sensors. These, and the experimental aircraft systems they have developed, have advanced data quality, quantity and resolution in field research. He has characterised the anatomical features that enable fast running and linked them to muscle power and efficiency and the role of tendon energy storage in delivering economical and versatile locomotion. His work has ranged from the mechanical basis of corrective shoeing, lameness and its treatment in horses though tendon mechanics, injuries and rehabilitation in human athletes to the performance tradeoffs and dynamics of predator-prey interaction in cursorial African mammals.

Please see my Google Scholar profile, which includes all of my published papers, as well as some abstracts. This also indicates current citations and links. Where papers are not freely available from the links, we are pleased to email them on request. Please contact or
I identify as particular highlights the following papers

Wilson AM, Goodship AE.  Exercise-induced hyperthermia as a possible mechanism for tendon degeneration. (1994).  J Biomechanics.  27: 899-905. 

Wilson AM, McGuigan MP, Su A, van Den Bogert AJ.  Horses damp the spring in their step. (2001).  Nature.  414: 895-899.

Wilson AM, McGuigan MP, Fouracre L, MacMahon L.  The force and contact stress on the navicular bone during trot locomotion in sound horses and horses with Navicular disease. (2001).  Equine Veterinary Journal.  33: 159-165.

Wilson AM, Watson JC, Lichtwark GA.  Biomechanics: A catapult action for rapid limb protraction. (2003).  Nature.  421: 35-36.   

Usherwood JR, Wilson AM.  Biomechanics: no force limit on greyhound sprint speed. (2005).  Nature.  438: 753-754.  

Pfau T, Witte TH, Wilson AM.  A method for deriving displacement data during cyclical movement using an inertial sensor. (2005).  Journal of Experimental Biology.  208: 2503-2514.

Lichtwark GA, Wilson AM.  Interactions between the human gastrocnemius muscle and the Achilles tendon during incline, level and decline locomotion. (2006).  Journal of Experimental Biology.  209: 4379-4388. 

Rees JD, Lichtwark GA, Wolman RL, Wilson AM.  The mechanism for efficacy of eccentric loading in Achilles tendon injury, an in vivo study in humans. (2008).  Rheumatology.  47: 1493-1497. 

Pfau T, Spence A, Starke, S, Ferrari M, Wilson AM.  Modern Riding Style Improves Horse Racing Times. (2009).  Science.  325: 289.

Lichtwark GA, Watson JC, Mavrommatis S, Wilson AM.  Intensity of activation and timing of deactivation modulate elastic energy storage and release in a pinnate muscle and account for gait-specific initiation of limb protraction in the horse. (2009).  Journal of Experimental Biology.  212: 2454-2463.

Tan H, Wilson AM.  Grip and limb force limits to turning performance in competition horses. (2010).  Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.  278: 2105-2111. 

Usherwood JR, Stavrou M, Lowe JC, Roskilly K, Wilson AM.  Flying in a flock comes at a cost in pigeons. (2011).  Nature.  474: 494-497.

Hudson PE, Corr SA, Wilson AM.  High speed galloping in the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) and the racing greyhound (Canis familiaris): spatio-temporal and kinetic characteristics. (2012).  Journal of Experimental Biology.  215: 2425-2434.

Wilson AM, Lowe JC, Roskilly K, Hudson PE, Golabek KA, McNutt JW.  Locomotion dynamics of hunting in wild cheetahs. (2013).  Nature.  498: 185-189. 

Portugal SJ, Hubel TY, Fritz J, Heese S, Trobe D, Voelkl B, Hailes S, Wilson AM ,Usherwood JR. Upwash exploitation and downwash avoidance by flap phasing in ibis formation flight. (2014)  Nature.  505: 399-402

B Voelkl, SJ Portugal, M Unsöld, JR Usherwood, AM Wilson, J Fritz
Matching times of leading and following suggest cooperation through direct reciprocity during V-formation flight in ibis (2015)
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112 (7), 2115-2120

Hubel TY, Myatt, JP, Jordan NR, Dewhirst, OP, McNutt, JW, Wilson, AM. Additive opportunistic capture explains group hunting benefits in African wild dogs (2016).  Nature Communications.  7:11033.

Hubel TY, Myatt, JP, Jordan NR, Dewhirst, OP, McNutt, JW, Wilson, AM. Energy cost and return for hunting in African wild dogs and cheetahs (2016).  Nature Communications.  7:11034.

Dewhirst OP, Roskilly K, Hubel TY, Jordan NR, Golabek KA, McNutt JW, Wilson, AM. An exploratory clustering approach for extracting stride parameters from tracking collars on free-ranging wild animals. (2017)  Journal of Experimental Biology.  220: 341-346

Wilson AM, Hubel TY, Wilshin SD, Lowe JC, Lorenc M, Dewhirst OP, Bartlam-Brooks HLA, Diack R, Bennitt E, Golabek KA, Woledge RC, McNutt JW, Curtin NA, West TG. Biomechanics of predator-prey arms race in lion, zebra, cheetah and impala. (2018)  Nature.  554: 183-188.

Curtin, N A; Bartlam-Brooks, H L A; Hubel, T Y; Lowe, J C; Gardner-Medwin, A R; Bennitt, M; Amos, S J; Lorenc, M; West, T G; Wilson, A M.
Remarkable muscles, remarkable locomotion in desert-dwelling wildebeest. (2018).  Nature.

Alan teaches on the BVetMed and BVS Comparative Animal Locomotion courses and supervises undergraduate and postgraduate student projects.

In addition to his veterinary qualifications, Alan holds an advanced qualification in chemical and physical restraint of wild animals and is registered as a veterinary surgeon in Botswana and South Africa.

Alan's work has featured in a number of BBC documentaries: BBC Horizon "The Secret Life of the Cat" (series 1 and 2), and BBC 1's "Big Cats" series, both of which used his tracking and movement sensing collars to understand hunting and ranging behaviour as well as giving detailed insight into locomotion.

Alan's equine work featured in Channel 4's "Inside Nature's Giants" series, where he explained the anatomy of the racehorse.



    The AIRSCAN project uses a modified research aircraft for aerial survey and data acquisition. During its first deployment in the LOCATE project, the aircraft allowed us to understand more about behaviour and locomotion in wild, free-ranging animals in southern Africa. The on-board technology helped reveal new insights into how animals interact with their natural environment, which will aid conservation and land management. The modified aircraft was originally built for studying large African carnivores and their prey in the savannah of northern Botswana. The researchers developed new ways of recording the detailed movements of these animals without disturbing them, using our wildlife tracking collars.

  • LOCATE: Locomotion, hunting and habitat utilisation among large African carnivores and their prey

    LOCATE: Locomotion, hunting and habitat utilisation among large African carnivores and their prey. The carnivores of the southern African savannah have no domestic counterparts and are at the extremes of performance in terms of speed, agility and strength. They are amongst the most threatened species in the world and yet there is much we do not know about them. At the beginning of this project, we did not know how the predators or their prey achieve the speed and manoeuvring required for the chase, what makes the difference between success and failure in hunting or how far the animals travel in a day or night and many other factors that may influence success and survival.

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