In adult domestic chickens, the neurones in the retinal ganglion cell layer are very unevenly disposed such that there is a sixfold increase in neurone density from the retinal edge to the retinal centre. The formation of the high ganglion-cell-density area centralis was studied on chick retinal wholemounts from the 8th day of incubation (E8) to 4 weeks after hatching (4WAH). The density of viable neurones and the number and the distribution of pyknotic neurones in the ganglion cell layer were estimated across the whole retina. Between E8 and E10, the distribution of neurones in the ganglion cell layer was anisodensitic with 53,000 mm-2 in the centre compared to 34,000 mm-2 in the periphery of the retina. Thereafter, a progressively steeper gradient of neurone density developed, which decreased from 24,000 mm-2 in the retinal centre to 6000 mm-2 at the retinal periphery by 4WAH. Neuronal pyknosis in the ganglion cell layer was observed between E9 and E17. From E11 onwards, consistently more pyknotic neurones were found in the peripheral than in the central retina. It was estimated that over the period of cell death approximately twice as many neurones died per unit area in the retinal periphery than in the centre. Retinal area measurements and estimation of neurone densities in the ganglion cell layer after the period of neurone generation and neurone death indicated differential retinal expansion, with more expansion in the peripheral than in the central retina. These observations allow us to conclude that the formation of the area centralis of the chick retina involves (1) slightly higher cell generation in the retinal centre, (2) higher rate of cell loss in the retinal periphery and (3) differential retinal expansion.