Prior to 1983, the black spiny sea urchin, Diadema antillarum, was ubiquitous on Caribbean reefs. Jamaica was no exception to this, as D. antillarum represented the primary herbivore on the overfished reefs of the island. Then, in 1983, D. antillarum populations
were struck by a mass mortality throughout the Caribbean reducing the number of these urchins in places by 85–100%. Since that time, Jamaican D. antillarum populations have been slow to recover. In 1998, populations along the north coast of the island had only recovered to, at
most, 5–10% of their original densities. Normally restricted to back reef and lagoonal grass beds, another species of echinoid, Tripneustes ventricosus, began to show increased numbers on the forereef in 1996–1998 in the vicinity of Discovery Bay, Jamaica. These sea urchins
now seem to be competing for the niche once dominated by D. antillarum and helping to increase the grazing pressure on these algal dominated reefs.
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