In all mammalian retinae studied to date, starburst cholinergic amacrine cells are a consistently occurring cell type. Here, we show that the cone-dominated retina of the tree shrew also has starburst cells with the characteristic radially symmetric branching pattern known from other species. Dendritic field sizes increase from 150 microm in the central retina to 300 microm in the retinal periphery. The characteristic morphology is established early during postnatal development. Labelling the starburst cholinergic cells with an antibody against choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) reveals two dendritic strata in the inner plexiform layer and two corresponding soma populations in the inner nuclear layer (orthotopic) and ganglion cell layer (displaced). These features are present in the adult and in early postnatal stages. In the adult, the density of the orthotopic population as well as the displaced population peaks in the central retina at about 2,200 cells/mm2 and has a peripheral minimum of 400 cells/mm2. These properties are qualitatively similar to those of starburst cells in rod-dominated retinae. In contrast to findings in other mammals, we did not see gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) or glutamic acid decarboxylase 65 kDa (GAD65) immunoreactivity in tree shrew starburst cells. These cells also appear to lack synaptophysin, a ubiquitous synaptic vesicle protein detected in the starburst cells of some other mammals. However, synaptoporin, a homologous synaptic vesicle protein, appears to be present in tree shrew starburst cells.