The relationship of the vasculature to the neuronal layers was studied in whole-mounts and in sections of macaque retinas. Like other central nervous structures, primate retinas have local variations in vascularity that reflect local variations in metabolism, rather than simply tissue thickness or volume. A special feature of the retina is a dense vascular plexus in the nerve fiber layer, which is unmyelinated and hence must generate a substantial metabolic demand for ion pumping. Much of the retinal vasculature is laminated and located at specific layer boundaries. Throughout the central retina, two planes of capillaries bracket the inner nuclear layer to form a sclerad capillary network. In some regions, especially near the fovea, a second, more vitread network brackets the ganglion cell layer with another pair of capillary planes. Wherever the nerve fiber layer is thick, the vitread network becomes less planar and is multilayered. When surrounded by nerve fibers, capillaries tend to orient parallel to the fibers; when adjacent to ganglion cell bodies, the capillaries are less systematically oriented. At the border between the nerve fiber layer and the ganglion cell layer, rows of ganglion cells often interdigitate with nerve fiber bundles, resulting in local perturbations of capillary orientation. The volume of the sclerad capillary network is relatively constant at different locations, but the volume of the vitread network increases dramatically where the nerve fiber layer is thick. As a result, the vascularity of the retina is greatest in the peripapillary region near the optic disk, even though the total thickness of the peripapillary retina is comparable to the retinal thickness near the foveal crest. As many as 60-70% of the photons passing through the retina in the peripapillary region will encounter one or more capillaries before reaching a photoreceptor. Median capillary diameter increases with retinal depth from 4.5-4.7 microns in the nerve fiber layer to 5.0 microns at the sclerad border of the inner nuclear layer. Capillary diameter in the nerve fiber layer also increases near the optic disk.