The influence of central targets on the morphological differentiation of retinal ganglion cells was investigated in Xenopus laevis. Since the ganglion cells mature into distinct morphological subtypes after their axons have reached their central targets, it is possible that the target tissues may influence or specify this aspect of neuronal cell development. To test this idea, Xenopus eyebuds were target-deprived by transplantation to the flank region of host embryos where they developed ectopically. The grafted eyes grew at normal rates, but could not make any projections into the central nervous system. To examine the morphological differentiation of the retinal ganglion cells their structures were revealed using an in vitro retinal preparation and intracellular injections of the dye Lucifer yellow. The elaboration and maturation of ganglion cell dendrites were found to be indistinguishable between control and transplanted eyes throughout development. Thus, the development of retinal ganglion cells into distinct morphological classes can occur even when their axons do not interact with the appropriate central targets.