The larval and early pupal development of the optic lobes in Drosophila is described qualitatively and quantitatively using [3H]thymidine autoradiography on 2-μm plastic sections. The optic lobes develop from 30-40 precursor cells present in each hemisphere of the freshly hatched larva. During the first and second larval instars, these cells develop to neuroblasts arranged in two epithelial optic anlagen. In the third larval instar and in the early pupa these neuroblasts generate the cells of the imaginal optic lobes at discrete proliferation zones, which can be correlated with individual visual neuropils.The different neuropils as well as the repetitive elements of each neuropil are generated in a defined temporal sequence. Cells of the medulla are the first to become postmitotic with the onset of the third larval instar, followed by cells of the lobula complex and finally of the lamina at about the middle of the third instar. The elements of each neuropil connected to the most posterior part of the retina are generated first, elements corresponding to the most anterior retina are generated last.The proliferation pattern of neuroblasts into ganglion mother cells and ganglion cells is likely to include equal as well as unequal divisions of neuroblasts, followed by one or two generations of ganglion mother cells. For the lamina the proliferation pattern and its temporal coordination with the differentiation of the retina are shown.
Keywords: Development; Optic ganglia; Visual system.