We have shown previously that three antibodies--anti-galactocerebroside (GC), anti-glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), and the A2B5 monoclonal antibody--can be used to help distinguish three classes of glial cells in the rat optic nerve: oligodendrocytes are GC+, GFAP-, almost all type-1 astrocytes are A2B5-, GFAP+, and almost all type-2 astrocytes are A2B5+, GFAP+. In the present study we have used these antibodies to examine the timing and sequence of the development of the three types of glial cells in vivo. We show that type-1 astrocytes first appear at embryonic Day 16 (E16), oligodendrocytes at birth (E21), and type-2 astrocytes between postnatal Days 7 and 10 (P7-10). Moreover, we demonstrate quantitatively that astrocytes in the optic nerve develop in two waves, with more than 95% of type-1 astrocytes developing before P15 and more than 95% of type-2 astrocytes developing after P15. Finally, we provide indirect evidence that type-2 astrocytes do not develop from type-1 astrocytes in vivo, supporting previous direct evidence that the two types of astrocytes develop from two serologically distinct precursor cells in vitro.