Mosaic analysis has been used to study the clonal basis of the development of the pigmented retina of the zebrafish, Brachydanio rerio. Zebrafish embryos heterozygous for a recessive mutation at the gol-1 locus were exposed to gamma-irradiation at various developmental stages to create mosaic individuals consisting of wild-type pigmented cells and a clone of pigmentless (golden) cells in the eye. The contribution of individual embryonic cells to the pigmented retina was measured and the total number of cells in the embryo that contributed descendants to this tissue was determined. Until the 32-cell stage, almost every blastomere has some descendants that participate in the formation of the pigmented retina of the zebrafish. During subsequent cell divisions, up to the several thousand-cell stage, the number of ancestral cells is constant: approximately 40 cells are present that will give rise to progeny in the pigmented retina. Analysis of the size of clones in the pigmented retina indicates that the cells of this tissue do not arise through a rigid series of cell divisions originating in the early embryo. The findings that each cleavage stage cell contributes to the pigmented retina and yet the contribution of such cells is highly variable are consistent with the interpretation that clonal descendants of different blastomeres normally intermix extensively prior to formation of the pigmented retina.