Astroglia in lower vertebrate optic nerves are unusual: as shown recently (Giordano et al., 1989; Rungger-Brandle et al., 1989), they express abundant Type II cytokeratin, not glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), the cytoskeletal marker for astrocytes elsewhere. To determine the implications for the glial cells of these epithelial-type cytoskeletons, which are linked up by desmosomal junctions, we analyzed the tissue patterning of fish optic nerve astroglia, which we term reticular astrocytes on account of their uniquely specialized arrangement. The processes of the reticular astrocytes fasciculate extensively with one another in a pattern stabilized by the desmosomes, forming a network laid out in thin planar sheets, or partitions. These are arranged transversely, that is at right angles to the optic fibers and are repeated at regular intervals of about 15 microns longitudinally throughout the optic nerve. They merge periodically forming a 3-dimensional framework whose pattern we speculate provides a flexible tissue skeleton for the optic nerve, capable of accommodating eye movements. Virtually all fibers in mature regions of the optic nerve are myelinated, and we show that nodes of Ranvier mostly occur in register with the partitions, displaying perinodal astrocytic associations resembling those found at CNS nodes in mammals. This clustering may account for the unexpectedly high observed incidence of neighbor pairs of nodes. Among other peculiarities associated with the reticular astrocytic network, one is that up to 20% of all cells comprise foamy macrophages not found elsewhere in the CNS.