An investigation of retinal specializations was carried out in larval and juvenile dhufish, Glaucosoma hebraicum (Glaucosomidae, Teleostei). The development of photoreceptors and formation of the retinal mosaic was followed by light and electron microscopy. At hatching the eye was undifferentiated. Cone photoreceptors were present by day 3 posthatch (dph), when exogenous feeding began. Single and multiple cones were present in a row arrangement from 3 dph to 20 dph, when the first rod nuclei were observed. Between 20 dph and approximately 3 months posthatch (mph), the row arrangement was replaced by a square mosaic of four double cones surrounding a single cone, and the cones increased in size, with the outer segments reaching up to 30 mum in length. During the period of spatial rearrangement, triple cones were often observed. From their first appearance, rod photoreceptors were added rapidly. Investigation of ganglion cell topography in 3-mph fish that had attained the adult-like square photoreceptor mosaic was carried out using retinal wholemounts. The highest densities of neurones in the ganglion cell layer were in temporal retina but no well-defined area centralis was observed. Microspectrophotometric measurements of the visual pigments within the outer segments of the photoreceptors of 3-mph fish revealed double cones with identical absorption spectra in each member of the outer segment, and the wavelength of maximum absorption (lambda(max)) located at 522 nm. Single cones were found to possess a visual pigment with lambda(max) at 460 nm and rods with a lambda(max) of 498 nm. The results imply that the larvae and juveniles are adapted for survival in coastal waters and may be active in relatively low light levels from early stages of development.