• Ceiba pentandra;
  • chiropterophilous species;
  • Ivory Coast;
  • Megachiroptera;
  • Senegal;
  • sulphur compounds

Floral scent of seven West African bat-pollinated tree species, belonging to six families, was collected in situ from flowering individuals using headspace adsorption. The seven species shared neither any specific compounds nor any other discernible pattern in their floral scent composition. Most of the identified compounds are common in the floral scent of species pollinated by a variety of animals. Adansonia digitata (Bombacaceae) was the only African species found to have a substantial proportion of sulphur compounds in its floral scent. This feature contrasts with the sampled New World bat-pollinated plants, which frequently contain these compounds. The floral scent of Ceiba pentandra (Bombacaceae), native to both South America and Africa, contained no sulphur substances, contradicting a previous study in the New World that identified the major floral compounds as dimethyl disulphide and dimethyl trisulphide. We suggest that the differences in the floral scent of C. pentandra, including the absence of sulphur compounds in the African variety, result from the different selective regimes exerted by the Pteropotidae bats, in Africa, and Phyllostomidae bats, in the New World, that visit their flowers. © 2004 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2004, 82, 161–168.