Ant-plant interactions mediated by special structures provided by plants such as domatia, extrafloral nectaries (EFNs) and food bodies, are very frequent in tropical ecosystems. To understand why ants are frequently encountered on most species of Carapa Aubl. (Meliaceae), we investigated the presence of extranuptial nectaries (ENNs) in all 27 species of the genus, spanning its entire distributional range in tropical Africa and America. We report for the first time in the genus the occurrence of extrafloral nectaries (at the base of the petiole, along the rachis of the pinnately compound leaf, on bracts) petaline nectaries (on the outer surface of petals), and pericarpial nectaries (on the surface of fruits), and confirm the presence of nectaries on leaflets in Carapa. Petiolar nectaries are the most common, occurring in 85% of the species. Nectaries were mainly active in young developing plant organs. Ants were observed foraging on exudates from these nectaries. The secretions from these glands help to explain the abundance of ants on Carapa trees. Although similar nectaries were also found in other members of the subfamily Cedreloideae, their position and frequency provide new characters for the identification of Carapa species in the field and the herbarium. As in other myrmecophilous plants, ENNs probably confer adaptive advantages to Carapa trees.
Carapa, extrafloral nectaries, Meliaceae, myrmecophily, pericarpial nectaries, petaline nectaries