The relation between thermal tolerance and latitudinal distribution was studied with 30 drosophilid species collected from the cool-temperate region (Sapporo), the warm-temperate region (Tokyo and Kyoto) and the subtropical region (Iriomote island) in Japan. In addition, intraspecific variation was examined for five species collected from two localities. The subtropical strains of Scaptodrosophila coracina, Drosophila bizonata and D. daruma were less tolerant to cold than their temperate strains. However, the difference of cold tolerance between these two geographic strains was much smaller than the difference between the species restricted to the subtropical region and those occurring in the temperate region. In D. auraria and D. suzukii, no difference was observed in thermal tolerance between their cool- and warm-temperate strains. Thus, geographic variation in thermal tolerance within species was low or negligible. Interspecific comparisons by phylogenetic independent contrasts revealed that species which had the northern boundaries of their distributions at higher latitudes were generally more tolerant to cold than those which had their boundaries at lower latitudes. However, the data for some species did not agree with this trend. The use of man-protected warm places for overwintering, competition or predation would also affect their distributions. It also appeared that species which had their southern boundaries at higher latitudes were generally more cold-tolerant. The acquisition of cold tolerance may lower a fly's capacity to compete, survive or reproduce in warmer climates. On the other hand, no relation was observed between heat tolerance and latitudinal distribution. Heat tolerance was higher in species inhabiting openlands or the forest canopy than in those inhabiting the forest understorey.