Avicennia germinans L. is a widespread mangrove species occupying the west coast of Africa and the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the Americas from the Bahamas to Brazil and Baja California to Peru. An amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) molecular analysis was carried out to assess genetic architecture within this species and to evaluate the effects of the Atlantic Ocean and the Central American Isthmus (CAI) on population and regional genetic diversity and differentiation. In total, 349 polymorphic AFLP fragments were identified among 144 individuals from 14 populations from the east Atlantic, west Atlantic and east Pacific. Levels of genetic diversity varied considerably among populations, but were generally higher in populations from the east Atlantic. Regional differentiation between the Pacific coast and Atlantic populations was greater than between east and west Atlantic populations, suggesting that the CAI has had an important influence on population genetic structure in this species. The lower level of divergence of east Atlantic from west Atlantic populations suggests some dispersal across the Atlantic Ocean, although migration rates are probably low; Nm from GST equal to 0.41 and accumulation of private and rare alleles in the east Atlantic. Population differentiation did not appear to follow an isolation by distance model and has probably resulted from complex patterns of population bottlenecks, and founder events due to landscape changes during the Pleistocene, particularly in the west Atlantic. The molecular data provide no support for the treatment of east Atlantic populations as a separate species A. africana.