In the Drosophila compound eye, the photoreceptor cells are organized in highly precise units, the ommatidia. In each photoreceptor cell, the primary photopigment, opsin, is contained in the rhabdomere, an ordered array of densely packed microvilli. A genetic and phenotypic analysis of a new X-linked. P element-induced mutation, fur, (fused rhabdomeres) is presented. Light and electron microscope studies show that mutations at the fur locus result in the fusion of the adjacent rhabdomeres in the developing eye and the fusion takes place during the pupal stage of eye development. Electrophysiological experiments indicate that the fur mutant photoreceptors have reduced sensitivity to light and lack a PDA (prolonged depolarizing afterpotential), a response characteristic of normal photoreceptor cells. Recombination and deficiency mapping localize fur to the proximal region of the X chromosome. Reversion analysis indicates the fur mutant is the result of a P element insertion. These studies suggest that the fur locus encodes a gene that has specific roles in rhabdomere morphogenesis and retinal function.