We examined the mechanisms underlying dendritic calcium accumulation in lobula plate tangential cells of the fly visual system using an in vitro preparation of the fly brain. Local visual stimulation evokes a localized calcium signal in the dendrites of these cells in vivo. Here we show that a similar localized calcium accumulation can be elicited in vitro by focal iontophoretic application of the cholinergic agonist carbachol. The calcium signal had at least two sources: first, voltage-dependent calcium channels contributed to the carbachol-induced signal and were concentrated on the dendrite, the soma, and the terminal ramification of the axon. However, the dendritic calcium signal induced by carbachol stimulation was only weakly dependent on membrane depolarization. The most likely explanation for the second, voltage-independent part of the dendritic calcium signal is calcium entry through nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. We found no indication of second-messenger or calcium-mediated calcium release from intracellular stores. In summary, the characteristic spatiotemporal calcium signals in the dendrites of lobula plate tangential cells can be reproduced in vitro, and result from a combination of voltage- and ligand-gated calcium influx.