Membranes from posterior and anterior thirds of the chick optic tectum were added to explants from nasal and temporal retina. Posterior membranes, and to a lesser extent anterior membranes, cause temporal growth cones to collapse and their axonal processes to retract. Neither tectal source has an effect on nasal growth cones. We interpret these results to mean that there is a tectal activity, stronger in the posterior than the anterior region of the tectum, which helps guide growth cones during the development of the retinotectal map. We believe that in vivo this activity helps to steer temporal growth cones away from the posterior tectum. Nasal growth cones, which must map to the posterior tectum, are resistant to it. In vitro, when posterior membranes contact temporal growth cones over their surface, filopodia and lamellipodia withdraw rapidly. This leads to loss of contact between the growth cone and the substrate, followed by collapse.