Diadema mexicanum, a conspicuous inhabitant along the Mexican Pacific coast, is a key species for the dynamics of coral reefs; nevertheless, studies on population dynamics for this species are scarce. Monthly sampling was carried out between April 2008 and March 2009 at Isla Montosa and La Entrega, Oaxaca, Mexico using belt transects. Population density was estimated as well as abundance using Zippin’s model. The relationship of density with sea-bottom temperature, salinity, pH, and pluvial precipitation was analyzed using a step by step multiple regression analysis. Spatial distribution was analyzed using Morisita’s, Poisson and negative binomial models. Natural mortality rate was calculated using modified Berrys model. Mean density was 3.4 ± 0.66 ind·m-2 in La Entrega and 1.2 ± 0.4 ind·m-2 in Isla Montosa. Abundance of D. mexicanum in La Entrega was 12166 ± 25 individuals and 2675 ± 33 individuals in Isla Montosa. In Isla Montosa there was a positive relationship of density with salinity and negative with sea-bottom temperature, whereas in La Entrega there was not a significant relationship of density with any recorded environmental variable. Monthly mortality rate was 0.10 in La Entrega and 0.15 in Isla Montosa. Spatial distribution pattern was aggregated for both localities during the sampling period with oscillations in the intensity of aggregation. Higher density and abundance, and a low mortality rate, indicate better conditions for the population of D. mexicanum in La Entrega, contrasting with those of Isla Montosa where apparently there are more stressful conditions associated to stronger oceanographic conditions and a higher sedimentation rate resulting from the proximity of the Copalita River.

Keywords: Echinodermata, Echinoidea, Population ecology, Mexican south Pacific, black urchin.