Abstract.1. Desiccation tolerance and starvation resistance demonstrated significant differentiation among seven Indian geographical populations of Drosophila kikkawai, collected along a latitudinal range of 12.6–32.7 °N. Lack of significant differences in two successive generations suggested that these physiological traits were genetically controlled.
2. North Indian populations of D. kikkawai displayed significantly higher desiccation tolerance than southern populations, whereas there was a reverse trend for starvation tolerance (r > 0.90). Regression slope values indicated an increase of 0.61 h for desiccation and a decrease of 1.71 h per degree latitude for starvation tolerance at 17 °C. The traits evidenced opposite latitudinal clines, and such data also matched thermal climatic conditions on the Indian subcontinent. The survival duration for such traits was significantly higher at 17 than at 25 °C.
3. Significantly higher starvation tolerance in south Indian populations might be due to large population size, species interactions, and higher metabolic rates in the humid tropical environments. In contrast, prolonged unfavourable colder climatic conditions are known to favour starvation tolerance in temperate regions. Thus, the causes of desiccation and starvation tolerance seem quite different under tropical and temperate conditions.
4. Starvation tolerance was correlated negatively with body weight and ovariole number, which might be due to a trade-off in favour of greater allocation to non-lipidic reserves for sustaining starvation tolerance in the tropics. Reduction in metabolic rate may not be applicable for observed higher starvation tolerance in the tropical populations.
5. Multiple regression analysis demonstrated a major effect of coefficient of variation of mean monthly temperature for both the traits of ecological significance. Thus, Indian geographical populations of D. kikkawai provided evidence of independent genetic divergence for starvation and desiccation tolerance under natural conditions.