Developmental cell death during optic cup formation was investigated in the tree shrew Tupaia belangeri. Twenty-six embryos from days 12 to 16 of prenatal ontogenesis were studied by light microscopy. Prior to the optic vesicle stage, a dorsal area of cell death surrounded the lumen of the V-shaped optic evagination (phase 1). A ventral band of dead cells, found in the optic vesicle (phase 2), preceded a dorsal focus of cell death (phase 3) previously described as a characteristic avian feature. During further invagination (phase 4), a peak of cell death was represented by a ventrodorsal band extending from the diencephalon over the complete optic anlage. The main areas of cell death found in phases 2 to 4 were, topographically, segments of this band. Also, the distinct areas of cell death reported in the literature for the vertebrate species studied so far fit well into this ventrodorsal band found in Tupaia. Thus, most probably, a common spatio-temporal sequence of cell death exists in all of them. In Tupaia, dead cells concentrated at the diencephalic insertion of the optic stalk, the suboptic necrotic center (SONC) reported by several authors, were part of the early ventral band of cell death originating from the median floor of the prosencephalon (phase 2). During optic cup formation, the SONC was part of the ventrodorsal band and, thus, was not secondarily formed by the subdivision of a pre-existing distal ventral area of cell death as reported for several other vertebrates.