Recent advances in genetic technologies have greatly accelerated our ability to find disease-related genes and to generate animal models. The availability of ocular tissues with known genetic diseases are greatly contributing to our understanding of retinal disease processes including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and panretinal and cone degenerations. While the macula is a highly specialised area of the retina not present in many mammals, the use of animal models such as mouse strains will give basic physiology and visual processing genetics relevant to human AMD. This review aims to provide a framework for better understanding some of the existing animal models and the knowledge that has been derived from their evaluations. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.