The period of cell genesis of rod and cone photoreceptor cells has been determined in the retinas of C57BL/6J mice. Embryonic mice were exposed to a single dose of 3H-thymidine at embryonic day (E) 10--18 by injecting pregnant mice intraperitoneally. Animals at postnatal ages were injected subcutaneously once between postnatal day (P) 0--10. The eyes were removed at one to three months of age. After fixation, they were embedded in glycol methacrylate, sectioned at 1.5 micrometers and prepared for autoradiographic analysis. All of the cone cells are generated over a relatively short time interval during the fetal period. In the posterior retina, the peak of cone cell genesis occurs at E13-E14, and no cones are generated after E16. The rods, by contrast, are generated later and over a longer time period. They first begin to be generated in the posterior retina on E13, but the peak of cell genesis is not reached until the day of birth, and some rods are generated as late as P5. For both rods and cones the peaks of cell genesis in the peripheral retina occur two to three days later than in the posterior retina. The findings demonstrate that rods and cones are developmentally distinct cell types in the mouse retina.