Towards a framework for collective behavior in growth-driven systems, based on plant-inspired allotropic pairwise interactions

Renaud Bastien, Amir Porat, Yasmine Meroz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A variety of biological systems are not motile, but sessile in nature, relying on growth as the main driver of their movement. Groups of such growing organisms can form complex structures, such as the functional architecture of growing axons, or the adaptive structure of plant root systems. These processes are not yet understood, however the decentralized growth dynamics bear similarities to the collective behavior observed in groups of motile organisms, such as flocks of birds or schools of fish. Equivalent growth mechanisms make these systems amenable to a theoretical framework inspired by tropic responses of plants, where growth is considered implicitly as the driver of the observed bending towards a stimulus. We introduce two new concepts related to plant tropisms: point tropism, the response of a plant to a nearby point signal source, and allotropism, the growth-driven response of plant organs to neighboring plants. We first analytically and numerically investigate the 2D dynamics of single organs responding to point signals fixed in space. Building on this we study pairs of organs interacting via allotropism, i.e. each organ senses signals emitted at the tip of their neighbor and responds accordingly. In the case of local sensing we find a rich state-space. We describe the different states, as well as the sharp transitions between them. We also find that the form of the state-space depends on initial conditions. This work sets the stage towards a theoretical framework for the investigation and understanding of systems of interacting growth-driven individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Article number055004
JournalBioinspiration and Biomimetics
Issue number5
StatePublished - 9 Aug 2019


  • allotropism
  • collective behavior
  • growth
  • plant tropism
  • swarming


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