Many latitudinal clines exist in Drosophila melanogaster: in adult body size, in allele frequency at allozyme loci, and in frequencies of common cosmopolitan inversions. The question is raised whether these latitudinal clines are causally related. This review aims to connect data from two very different fields of study, evolutionary biology and cell biology, in explaining such natural genetic variation in D. melanogaster body size and development time. It is argued that adult body size clines, inversion frequency clines, and clines in allele frequency at loci involved in glycolysis and glycogen storage are part of the same adaptive strategy. Selection pressure is expected to differ at opposite ends of the clines. At high latitudes, selection on D. melanogaster would favour high larval growth rate at low temperatures, and resource storage in adults to survive winter. At low latitudes selection would favour lower larval critical size to survive crowding, and increased male activity leading to high male reproductive success. Studies of the insulin-signalling pathway in D. melanogaster point to the involvement of this pathway in metabolism and adult body size. The genes involved in the insulin-signalling pathway are associated with common cosmopolitan inversions that show latitudinal clines. Each chromosome region connected with a large common cosmopolitan inversion possesses a gene of the insulin transmembrane complex, a gene of the intermediate pathway and a gene of the TOR branch. The hypothesis is presented that temperate D. melanogaster populations have a higher frequency of a 'thrifty' genotype corresponding to high insulin level or high signal level, while tropical populations possess a more 'spendthrift' genotype corresponding to low insulin or low signal level.