A light microscopy study of the retina of the shovel-nosed ray, Rhinobatos batillum (Rhinobatidae) has revealed a duplex retina with a rod to cone ratio between 4:1 and 6:1. The inner nuclear layer consists of three layers of large horizontal cells, tightly packed, stellate bipolar cells, and up to three substrata of amacrine cells. The collaterals of the many supporting Müller cells project from the inner to the outer limiting membrane and divide the retina into many subunits. The cells of the ganglion cell layer are distributed into two layers, although a large proportion of ganglion cells are also displaced into the inner plexiform and inner nuclear layers. Topographic analysis of the cells in the ganglion cell layer, inner plexiform and inner nuclear layers reveals a number of regional specializations or "areae centrales". Ganglion cells were retrogradely-labelled with cobalt-lysine from the optic nerve, and three sub-populations of neurons characterized on their soma size and position. Small (20-50 microns2), large (80-300 microns2) and giant (greater than 300 microns2) sub-populations of ganglion cells each revealed distinct retinal specializations with peak densities of 3 x 10(3), 1.25 x 10(3) and 1.57 x 10(3) cells per mm2, respectively. Topographical comparison between Nissl-stained and retrogradely-labelled ganglion cell populations have established that a maximum of 20% in the "area centralis", and 75% in unspecialized, peripheral regions of the retina are non-ganglion cells. Out of a total of 210,566 cells in the ganglion cell layer, 49% were found to be non-ganglion cells. Iso-density contour maps of amacrine and bipolar cell distributions also reveal some specializations. These cell concentrations lie in corresponding regions to areas of increased density in the large and giant ganglion cell populations, suggesting some functional association.