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Macalester College

Publication Date

Spring 2008

Program Name

Panama: Development and Conservation


In January 1983, the worst recorded die-off of any marine animal hit the Caribbean beginning near the mouth of the Panama Canal and eventually wiping out nearly 99% of one of the most important herbivores in coral reef communities, Diadema antillarum—the long-spined sea urchin or Diadema. No populations of Diadema in the Western Atlantic are known to have escaped the drastic population declines. The loss of Diadema throughout the Western Atlantic has had long-lasting impacts on the structure and composition of many types of communities including coral reefs, mangrove roots, sea grass beds, and sand flats. Though the mortality was widespread, studies of Diadema in Panamá have been few because of the limited information on pre-mortality community dynamics. This study investigates the current Diadema populations on Sunset Point and a nearby mangrove island on Isla Colón in Bocas del Toro, Panamá using simple census measurements such as test size, population density, and sex ratio as well as qualitative observations of community structure. Without knowing pre-mortality population information, it is difficult to determine how the population has changed over the last 25 years as a result of the mortality. However, this study is an attempt at establishing a baseline of population structure and ecological information of the Diadema in one area of Isla Colón in Bocas del Toro, Panamá.


Latin American Studies | Natural Resources and Conservation | Natural Resources Management and Policy


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