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A possible link between melanization and desiccation resistance can be inferred if within population differences in melanization find significant correlations with desiccation resistance and its mechanistic basis i.e. rate of water loss/hr. Accordingly, darker, intermediate and lighter phenotypes of body melanization were analyzed in wild and laboratory reared Drosophila melanogaster L. (Diptera: Clyclorrapha) populations from highland and lowland sites located in close proximity at five different latitudinal locations (11.15 °N to 31.06°N) within the Indian subcontinent. In large population samples, occurrence of significant within population variability made it possible to assort non-overlapping phenotypes of body coloration (i.e. lighter (< 25%), intermediate (30 to 40%) and darker (> 45%)) for all the populations which were further investigated for desiccation resistance and rate of water loss/hr. Significantly, higher desiccation resistance but much reduced rate of water loss/hr were observed in darker and intermediate phenotypes in all the populations. By contrast, lighter phenotypes exhibited lower desiccation tolerance but higher rate of water loss/hr. A regression analysis between traits provided similar slope values for wild and laboratory populations. For all three physiological traits, predicted trait values from multiple regression analysis as a simultaneous function of annual average temperature and relative humidity, matched the observed values. We infer that parallel changes in melanization and desiccation resistance may result from decreasing annual average temperature and relative humidity along increasing latitude as well as altitude on the Indian subcontinent.
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