The Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) occupies the tropical coastal waters of the Greater Antilles and Caribbean, extending from Mexico along Central and South America to Brazil. Historically, manatees were abundant in Mexico, but hunting during the pre-Columbian period, the Spanish colonization and throughout the history of Mexico, has resulted in the significantly reduced population occupying Mexico today. The genetic structure, using microsatellites, shows the presence of two populations in Mexico: the Gulf of Mexico (GMx) and Chetumal Bay (ChB) on the Caribbean coast, with a zone of admixture in between. Both populations show low genetic diversity (GMx: NA=2.69; HE=0.41 and ChB: NA=3.0; HE=0.46). The lower genetic diversity found in the GMx, the largest manatee population in Mexico, is probably due to a combination of a founder effect, as this is the northern range of the sub-species of T. m. manatus, and a bottleneck event. The greater genetic diversity observed along the Caribbean coast, which also has the smallest estimated number of individuals, is possibly due to manatees that come from the GMx and Belize. There is evidence to support limited or unidirectional gene flow between these two important areas. The analyses presented here also suggest minimal evidence of a handful of individual migrants possibly between Florida and Mexico. To address management issues we suggest considering two distinct genetic populations in Mexico, one along the Caribbean coast and one in the riverine systems connected to the GMx. ?? 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.