The morphology of retinal ganglion cells within the central retina during formation of the fovea was examined in retinal explants with horseradish-peroxidase histochemistry. A foveal depression was first apparent in retinal wholemounts at embryonic day 112 (El 12; gestational term is approximately 165 days). At earlier fetal ages, the site of the future fovea was identified by several criteria that included peak density of ganglion cells, lack of blood vessels in the inner retinal layers, arcuate fiber bundles, and the absence of rod outer segments in the photoreceptor layer. Prior to E112, the terminal dendritic arbor of retinal ganglion cells within the central retina extended into the inner plexiform layer and were located directly beneath their somas of origin or at most were slightly displaced from it. For example, at E90 the mean horizontal displacement of the geometric center of the dendritic arbor from the somas of cells within 600 μm of the estimated center of the future fovea was 4.1 μm (S.D. 2.7, range 1.0-10.0, n = 97). Following formation of the foveal depression the dendritic arbors of cells were significantly displaced from their somas. For example, at E138 the mean displacement was 41.2 μm (S.D. 12.2, range 12.0-56.0, n = 97). The displacement of the dendritic arbor which occurred during this period was not accounted for by areal growth of the dendritic arbor, the somas, or the retina, but was produced by the lengthening of the primary dendritic trunk. Moreover, no significant displacement was observed within the remaining 1.5–6.5 mm of the central retina. These observations provide evidence supporting early speculations that the formation of the foveal pit occurs, in part, by the radial migration of ganglion cells from the center of the fovea during its formation. Our analyses suggest that this migration occurs by the lengthening of the primary dendrite presumably by the addition of membrane. This migration is in a direction opposite to the inward movement of photoreceptors that occurs during late fetal and early postnatal periods (Packer et al., 1990, Journal of Comparative Neurology 298, 472–493).