• avian retina;
  • dendritic stratification;
  • visual pathway


Morphological properties of chick retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) were studied in relation to their central projections in 23 chicks. A total of 217 RGCs were retrogradely labeled by applying a carbocyanine dye (DiI) to the thalamus and optic tectum. The labeled RGCs were classified into six groups on the basis of their somal areas, dendritic fields, and branching patterns. The dendrites of these RGCs extended horizontally in the inner plexiform layer (IPL) forming eight dendritic strata. The RGCs in each group showed certain specificities in their central projections. Group Ic predominantly projected to the tectum. Groups IIs and IIIs showed a high thalamic dominance. Groups Is and IIc were nonspecific with regard to their tectal and thalamic projections. Group IVc showed tectal-specific projections. Occurrence rates of the dendritic strata increased progressively toward the inner part of the IPL, i.e., DSs (dendritic strata) 1–4 were scantily distributed, DSs 5 and 6 were moderately distributed, and DSs 7 and 8 were the most frequently distributed. A total of 42 dendritic stratification patterns were identified, and of these, 18 patterns were common to the tectal RGCs (tec-RGCs) and thalamic RGCs (tha-RGCs). The common patterns were detected very frequently in the tec- and tha-RGCs (≈85%), and the dendritic strata were largely distributed in the inner part of the IPL (DSs 5–8). In contrast, the remaining 24 noncommon stratification patterns showed low occurrence rates (≈15%); however, these dendritic strata were widely distributed in both the outer (DSs 1–4) and inner (DSs 5–8) IPL. J. Comp. Neurol. 514:117–130, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.