The cellular responses of the cone-dominant ground squirrel retina to retinal detachment were examined and compared to those in rod-dominant species. Retinal detachments were made in California ground squirrels. The retinas were prepared for light, electron, and confocal microscopy. Tissue sections were labeled with antibodies to cone opsins, rod opsin, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), vimentin, synaptophysin, cytochrome oxidase, and calbindin D 28K. Wax sections were probed with the MIB-1 antibody to detect proliferating cells. By 10 h postdetachment many photoreceptor cells in the ground squirrel already show structural signs of apoptosis. At 1 day many photoreceptors have collapsed inner segments (IS), yet others still have short stacks of outer segment discs. At 3 days there is a marked increase in the number of dying photoreceptors. Rod and medium-/long-wavelength opsins are redistributed in the cell membrane to their synaptic terminals. At 7 days photoreceptor cell death has slowed. Some regions of the outer nuclear layer (ONL) have few photoreceptor somata. IS remnants are rare on surviving photoreceptors. At 28 days these trends are even more dramatic. Retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE) cells do not expand into the subretinal space. The outer limiting membrane (OLM) appears flat and uninterrupted. Müller cells remain remarkably unreactive; they show essentially no proliferation, only negligible hypertrophy, and there is no increase in their expression of GFAP or vimentin. Horizontal cells show no dendritic sprouting in response to detachment. The speed and extent of photoreceptor degeneration in response to detachment is greater in ground squirrel than in cat retina-only a small number of rods and cones survive at 28 days of detachment. Moreover, the almost total lack of Müller cell and RPE reactivity in the ground squirrel retina is a significant difference from results in other species.