Wild caught samples of Drosophila melanogaster from five highland localities showed parallel changes in melanisation and desiccation resistance in darker versus lighter phenotypes, i.e. darker flies (>45% melanisation) showed significantly higher desiccation resistance than lighter flies (<30% melanisation). In order to find an association between body melanisation and desiccation resistance, highland and lowland populations from tropical and subtropical regions (11.15-31.06 degrees N) of the Indian subcontinent were raised and investigated at 21 degrees C for four physiological traits, i.e. per cent body melanisation, desiccation resistance, rate of water loss and rate of water absorption. On the basis of mother-offspring regression, body melanisation and desiccation resistance showed higher heritability (0.58-0.68) and thus these traits are suitable for laboratory analyses. Significantly higher melanisation as well as desiccation resistance were observed in highland populations as compared with lowland populations. The rates of water loss as well as absorption were negatively correlated with body melanisation, i.e. darker flies from highlands showed a reduced rate of water loss as well as a lower rate of water absorption while the reverse trend was observed in lighter flies from lowlands. On the basis of multiple regressions, significant effects due to combined altitude and latitude were observed for all the four physiological traits. Local climatic conditions (i.e. annual average temperature and relative humidity) helped in explaining parallel changes in body melanisation and desiccation resistance in D. melanogaster.