The oxygen distribution in the retina of six anesthetized macaques was investigated as a model for retinal oxygenation in the human retina in and adjacent to the fovea. P(O2) was measured as a function of retinal depth under normal physiological conditions in light and dark adaptation with O(2) microelectrodes. Oxygen consumption (Q(O2)) of the photoreceptors was extracted by fitting a steady-state diffusion model to P(O2) measurements. In the perifovea, the P(O2) was 48 +/- 13 mmHg (mean and SD) at the choroid and fell to a minimum of 3.8 +/- 1.9 mmHg around the photoreceptor inner segments in dark adaptation, rising again toward the inner retina. The P(O2) in the inner half of the retina in darkness was 17.9 +/- 7.8 mmHg. When averaged over the outer retina, photoreceptor Q(O2) (called Q(av)) was 4.6 +/- 2.3 ml O(2).100 g(-1).min(-1) under dark-adapted conditions. Illumination sufficient to saturate the rods reduced Q(av) to 72 +/- 11% of the dark-adapted value. Both perifoveal and foveal photoreceptors received most of their O(2) from the choroidal circulation. While foveal photoreceptors have more mitochondria, the Q(O2) of photoreceptors in the fovea was 68% of that in the perifovea. Oxygenation in macaque retina was similar to that previously found in cats and other mammals, reinforcing the relevance of nonprimate animal models for the study of retinal oxygenation, but there was a smaller reduction in Q(O2) with light than observed in cats, which may have implications for understanding the influence of light under some clinical conditions.