"Comparing the dynamics of stomatal networks to the problem-solving dynamics of cellular computers"
Is the adaptive response to environmental stimuli of a biological system lacking a central nervous system a result of a formal computation? If so, these biological systems must conform to a different set of computational rules than those associated with central processing. To explore this idea, we examined the dynamics of stomatal patchiness in leaves. Stomata—tiny pores on the surface of a leaf—are biological processing units that a plant uses to solve an optimization problem—maximize CO2 assimilation and minimize H2O loss. Under some conditions, groups of stomata coordinate in both space and time producing motile patches that can be visualized with chlorophyll fluorescence. These patches suggest that stomata are nonautonomous and that they form a network presumably engaged in the optimization task. In this study, we show that stomatal dynamics are statistically and qualitatively comparable to the emergent, collective, problem-solving dynamics of cellular computing systems.