The morphology of retinal ganglion cells in the neotenous tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) was analyzed with the aid of morphometric techniques to determine the diversity of cell types and to evaluate the widely held notion that this form of Ambystoma has a simple retina, with little variance among its cell morphologies. Single‐cell staining was achieved through retrograde labeling with horseradish peroxidase injected around the optic nerve sheath followed by a period of several days before tissue processing; 83 well‐labelled cells with axons were studied in detail with light microscopy and a computer‐aided reconstruction system. Five different morphological cell classes were devised based on broad morphometric criteria such as the dendritic area of influence; the number, length, and complexity of dendritic branches; and the amount of overlap between neighboring dendrites. These classes included small simple, small complex, medium simple, medium complex, and large cells. In addition, a class of cells with numerous varicosities among the dendrites was separately analyzed. These swellings did not stain for catecholamines. Based on optical determinations of the dendritic sublamination pattern within the inner plexiform layer, presumed On‐Off cells are present in all subclasses, whereas On cells predominate in the smaller cell groups. Presumed Off cells are well represented in the large field units, although the small total number of cells in this latter class leads to uncertainty regarding the significance of this observation. The diversity of ganglion cell morphology revealed in the present study argues against the assumption that the neotenous tiger salamander has a simple retina, with a relatively invariant set of ganglion cells. On the contrary, it appears that this aquatic form shows morphological diversity in the retinal ganglion cell population rivaling that reported for other vertebrates, including mammals. A functional role for the different cell classes is briefly considered. © 1995 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.
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