Laboratory experiments on Drosophila have often demonstrated increased heritability for morphological and life-history traits under environmental stress. We used parent-offspring comparisons to examine the impact of humidity levels on the heritability of a physiological trait, resistance to heat, measured as knockdown time at constant temperature. Drosophila melanogaster were reared under standard nonstressful conditions and heat-shocked as adults at extreme high or low humidity. Mean knockdown time was decreased in the stressful dry environment, but there was a significant sex-by-treatment interaction: at low humidity, females were more heat resistant than males, whereas at high humidity, the situation was reversed. Phenotypic variability of knockdown time was also lower in the dry environment. The magnitude of genetic correlation between the sexes at high humidity indicated genetic variation for sexual dimorphism in heat resistance. Heritability estimates based on one-parent-offspring regressions tended to be higher under desiccation stress, and this could be explained by decreased environmental variance of heat resistance at low humidity. There was no indication that the additive genetic variance and evolvability of heat resistance differed between the environments. The pattern of heritability estimates suggests that populations of D.melanogaster may have a greater potential for evolving higher thermal tolerance under arid conditions. 2012 The Authors. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 2012 European Society For Evolutionary Biology.