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Comparison between the Anatomical and Morphological Structure of Leaf Blades and Foliar Domatia in the Ant-plant Hirtella physophora (Chrysobalanaceae)

Leroy, Céline, Jauneau, Alain, Quilichini, Angélique, Dejean, Alain, Orivel, Jérôme
Annals of botany 2008 v.101 no.4 pp. 501-507
Chrysobalanaceae, Formicidae, branches, hypertrophy, leaf blade, leaf rolling, mutualism, nectaries, parenchyma, plant spines, pouches, stomatal movement
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Myrmecophytes, or ant-plants, are characterized by their ability to shelter colonies of some ant species in hollow structures, or ant-domatia, that are often formed by hypertrophy of the internal tissue at specific locations (i.e. trunk, branches, thorns and leaf pouches). In Hirtella physophora (Chrysobalanaceae), the focal species of this study, the ant-domatia consist of leaf pouches formed when the leaf rolls over onto itself to create two spheres at the base of the blade. METHODS: The morphological and anatomical changes through which foliar ant-domatia developed from the laminas are studied for the first time by using fresh and fixed mature leaves from the same H. physophora individuals. KEY RESULTS: Ant-domatia were characterized by larger extra-floral nectaries, longer stomatal apertures and lower stomatal density. The anatomical structure of the domatia differed in the parenchymatous tissue where palisade and spongy parenchyma were indistinct; chloroplast density was lower and lignified sclerenchymal fibres were more numerous compared with the lamina. In addition, the domatia were thicker than the lamina, largely because the parenchymatous and epidermal cells were enlarged. CONCLUSIONS: Herein, the morphological and anatomical changes that permit foliar ant-domatia to be defined as a specialized leaf structure are highlighted. Similarities as well as structural modifications in the foliar ant-domatia compared with the lamina are discussed from botanical, functional and mutualistic points of view. These results are also important to understanding the reciprocal evolutionary changes in traits and, thus, the coevolutionary processes occurring in insect-plant mutualisms.