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Biol Lett. 2010 August 23; 6(4): 570–574.
Published online 2010 January 27. doi:  10.1098/rsbl.2009.0971
PMCID: PMC2936194

Sexual dimorphism for water balance mechanisms in montane populations of Drosophila kikkawai


Conservation of water is critical to the ecological success of Drosophila species living in the drier montane localities of the Western Himalayas. We observed clinal variation in desiccation resistance for both sexes of Drosophila kikkawai from an altitudinal transect (512–2226 m above sea level). Since more than 90 per cent of body water is lost through cuticular transpiration, the target of selection may be cuticular lipids or cuticular melanization. We tested whether melanic females and non-melanic males of D. kikkawai have similar mechanisms of desiccation resistance. There is clinal variation in the amount of cuticular lipids per fly in males, but not in females. By contrast, for females, elevational increase in melanization is positively correlated with desiccation resistance and negatively with cuticular water loss, but there is no variation in the amount of cuticular lipids. Thus, sexual dimorphism for the mechanism of desiccation resistance in D. kikkawai matches the water proofing role of body melanization as well as cuticular lipids.

Keywords: Drosophila kikkawai, desiccation resistance, cuticular lipids, cuticular melanization, non-melanic males

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