Parallel pathways for visual information processing start at the first synapse of the retina, at the cone pedicle. At least eight different types of bipolar cells receive direct synaptic input from an individual cone. The present study explores whether enough synaptic sites are available at the cone pedicle to supply all these bipolar cells. Monkey retinae were optimally fixed for electron microscopy. Serial horizontal sections were cut through the cone pedicle layer in a piece close to the fovea (eccentricity: 0.75 mm) and in a peripheral piece (eccentricity: 5-6 mm). The ribbon synapses (triads) at the cone pedicle base were analysed. The average number of synaptic ribbons per cone pedicle increased from 21.4 +/- 1.6 (n = 26) in central retina to 41.8 +/- 3 (n = 14) in peripheral retina. Five central and five peripheral pedicles were reconstructed and the invaginating bipolar cell dendrites forming the central elements of the triads were characterized. Close to the fovea an average of 18 invaginating bipolar cell dendrites was found, in peripheral retina the average was 90. Pedicles of foveal cones have one invaginating central process per ribbon, pedicles of peripheral cones have two. It is possible that midget bipolar cell dendrites occupy the majority of triads in the fovea, while in peripheral retina both midget and diffuse bipolar cell dendrites share the triads.