Oligodendrocytes were studied in the anterior medullary velum (AMV) of the rat using the monoclonal antibody Rip, an oligodendrocyte marker of unknown function. Confocal microscopic imaging of double immunofluorescent labelling with antibodies to Rip and carbonic anhydrase II (CAII) revealed two biochemically and morphologically distinct populations of oligodendrocyte which were either Rip+CAII+ or Rip+CAII-. Double immunofluorescent labelling with Rip and myelin basic protein (MBP) or glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) provided direct evidence that Rip-labelled cells were phenotypically oligodendrocytes and confirmed that Rip did not recognise astrocytes. Oligodendrocytes which were Rip+CAII+ supported numerous myelin sheaths for small diameter axons, whilst Rip+CAII- oligodendrocytes supported fewer myelin sheaths for large diameter axons. Morphologically, Rip+CAII+ oligodendrocytes corresponded to types I or II of classical nomenclature, whilst Rip+CAII- oligodendrocytes corresponded to types III and IV. The results demonstrated a biochemical difference between oligodendrocytes which myelinated small and large diameter fibres.