Dorsal closure is an essential stage of Drosophila development that is a model system for research in morphogenesis and biological physics. Dorsal closure involves an orchestrated interplay between gene expression and cell activities that produce shape changes, exert forces and mediate tissue dynamics. We investigate the dynamics of dorsal closure based on confocal microscopic measurements of cell shortening in living embryos. During the mid-stages of dorsal closure we find that there are fluctuations in the width of the leading edge cells but the time-averaged analysis of measurements indicate that there is essentially no net shortening of cells in the bulk of the leading edge, that contraction predominantly occurs at the canthi as part of the process for zipping together the two leading edges of epidermis and that the rate constant for zipping correlates with the rate of movement of the leading edges. We characterize emergent properties that regulate dorsal closure, i.e., a velocity governor and the coordination and synchronization of tissue dynamics.