The Oil fly, Helaeomyia petrolei C., an Innocuous and Unique Dipteran

NJE Vol. 37: 100-106, 2021


Ubulom, Peace M. E.1, Ekong, Ubong S.2, Umohata, Idongesit A.1*
and Obu, Chinecherem J.1

1Department of Animal and Environmental Biology, Faculty of Science
University of Uyo, Uyo, Nigeria

2Department of Pharmaceutical Microbiology and Biotechnology
Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Uyo, Uyo, Nigeria


Helaeomyia petrolei, formerly named Psilopa petrolei is an unfamiliar dipteran, probably because of its restricted distribution. It is a member of the family Ephydridae. This species of fly which is extremophilic in nature and is native to the United States of America was first discovered in the crude petroleum of La Brea Tar pits of Los Angeles County in California. Helaeomyia petrolei is unique primarily because of its ability to tolerate adverse aquatic habitats (crude petroleum pool). Larvae of this species ingest large quantities of asphalt from the petroleum pool, without any ill effects. They also accommodate in their gut microorganisms that are solvent tolerant. Though known to entomologists for well over 100 years ago, not much attention has been given to this rare species. There still remain many aspects of interest yet to be unraveled. The objective of this review was to collate available information about this unpopular dipteran and harness information obtained for academic, pharmaceutical and industrial applicability as well as encouraging further studies on this rare species. Solvent tolerance as discussed in this review is beneficial for bioremediation. The potential pharmaceutical and industrial applications of the solvent tolerant microbial community in Helaeomyia petrolei and other extremophilic species should therefore be harnessed for nobel scientific discoveries.

Keywords: Helaeomyia petrolei, oil fly, extremophiles, crude oil.

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