The purpose of this study was to measure the intraretinal oxygen distribution across the retina under conditions, which maximise outer retinal oxygen consumption. In particular, we looked for evidence of increased oxygen delivery from the choroid and the deep retinal capillary layer, and whether or not this was sufficient to avoid the development of intraretinal anoxia. Under dark-adapted conditions the photoreceptors need additional energy, at least part of which is derived from increased oxidative metabolism. In earlier studies in the cat retina it was revealed that dark adaptation could render some regions of the outer retina anoxic. The present study of the in vivo oxygen distribution across the rat retina in light and dark found no evidence of outer retinal anoxia in the dark. This was despite a mean increase of 52.6+/-11.4% (n=7) in outer retinal oxygen consumption in the dark. The mean value for the minimum outer retinal PO(2) in the dark was 5.2+1.2 mmHg. Oxygen delivery from both the choroid and the deep retinal capillary layer increased in the dark (P<0.01, and P<0.001, respectively). It is argued that the ability of the deep capillary layer to compensate for changes in oxygen demand in the outer retina is an important element in the maintenance of homeostasis in the retina. This is in addition to the role of the deep capillary layer in supplying oxygen to the highly consuming plexiform layers within the inner retina. These findings in the rat retina also demonstrate that intraretinal anoxia in the dark, is not, as implied by earlier work in the cat, a general feature of mammalian retinas.