We investigated within as well as between population variability in desiccation resistance, cuticular lipid mass per fly and cuticular water loss in nine geographical populations of a tropical drosophilid, Zaprionus indianus. Interestingly, the amount of cuticular lipids and desiccation resistance in this non-melanic species are significantly higher as compared with melanic Drosophila melanogaster. On the basis of isofemale line analysis, within population trait variability in cuticular lipid mass per fly is positively correlated with desiccation resistance and negatively correlated with cuticular water loss but show lack of correlation with body size. We observed geographical variation in the amount of cuticular lipid mass per fly in Zaprionus indianus but no such divergence was found in D.melanogaster. In both the species, geographical variations in desiccation resistance are negatively correlated with cuticular water loss but the underlying mechanisms for changes in cuticular permeability are quite different. Thus, we may suggest that body melanisation and cuticular lipids may represent alternative strategies for coping with dehydration stress in melanic versus non-melanic drosophilids. For both the species, desiccation resistance and cuticular water loss are correlated with regular increase in aridity in the northern subtropical localities as compared with southern peninsular humid tropical localities. The role of climatic selection is evident from multiple regression analysis with seasonal changes in temperature and humidity (Tcv and RHcv) of the sites of origin of populations of Zaprionus indianus along latitude.