Populations belonging to the sibling species Drosophila melanogaster and D. simulans were collected in Southwestern France and Southern Spain, and investigated under constant (CT) and alternating (AT) temperature regimes. Development under CT was possible between 11 and 32 degrees C and egg-to-adult viability curves were almost 'rectangular', with a sharp decrease below 14 and above 29 degrees C. Rate of development followed a complex non-linear curve. A model described the curve as an exponential below a critical temperature (T(C)), and above T(C) as the difference between this function and another exponential which is assumed to show deleterious effects of heat. Developmental rates under two daily 12-h phases with various mid-temperatures and thermal amplitudes were compared to expected rates calculated from the above model. Acceleration effects were observed at four AT (in increasing order: 12-30, 9-21, 11-21, 16-26 degrees C); retardation occurred at three other ones (in increasing order, 7-21, 5-15, 7-29 degrees C). When expressed by the ratio observed/expected, the effects could be predicted using a multiple regression, as a positive function of the thermal amplitude and a negative one of the mid-temperature. Viability under AT was analysed considering an equivalent developmental temperature (EDT), that is the CT which would produce the same rate or development. Very low viabilities occurred under broad amplitude regimes, but the deleterious effects of some extreme temperatures, that would be lethal under CT, could be recovered by daily return to a moderate temperature. The two species exhibited slight but significant differences in their characteristic temperatures: developmental zero, critical temperature, temperature of maximum rate, upper developmental limit. All data may be interpreted by considering that D. simulans compared to D. melanogaster is more tolerant to cold but less tolerant to heat.