A study of genetic diversity at microsatellite loci and the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) cytochrome b gene was carried out to assess genetic relationships among four Mexican cave (Pachon, Sabinos, Tinaja, Chica) and four surface populations of Astyanax fasciatus (Characidae) from northeast Mexico and the Yucatan. With the exception of Chica, the cave populations were all characterized by extremely low microsatellite variability, which most likely resulted from bottleneck events. Population analyses of the microsatellite data indicated no measurable levels of gene flow between all cave and surface populations (F(ST) > 0.0707). Phylogenetic analyses of mtDNA data showed that only two cave populations - Sabinos and Tinaja - group together to the exclusion of surface populations. From the microsatellite data these cave populations cluster with the Pachon cave fish population. The mtDNA thus appears to have been replaced in Pachon because of introgressive hybridization. It is likely that these three cave populations have descended from a surface ancestor in common with current surface populations, rather than evolving recently from one of the extant surface populations. Like Pachon, the Chica population clustered with the surface populations according to mtDNA data, but was not clearly associated with either the surface or the other cave populations according to the microsatellite data. Our data indicate that the Chica population evolved recently from a surface population, and subsequently hybridized with a phylogenetically older cave population. In conclusion, both the microsatellite and mtDNA data suggest multiple origins of cave populations and the Chica and Sabinos/Tinaja/Pachon were founded after at least two independent invasions from surface populations.