Abstract At the vertebrate optic chiasm there is major change in fibre order and, in many animals, a separation of fibres destined for different hemispheres of the brain. However, the structure of this region is not uniform among all species but rather shows marked variations both in terms of its gross architecture and the pathways taken by different fibres. There also are striking differences in the developmental mechanisms sculpting this region even between closely related animals. In spite of this, recent studies have provided strong evidence for a remarkable degree of conservation in the molecular nature of the guidance signals and regulatory genes driving chiasmatic development. Here differences and similarities in chiasmatic organisation and development between separate groups of animals will be reviewed. While it may not be possible to ascribe a single set of factors that are universal components of the vertebrate chiasm, there are both strikingly similar elements as well as diverse features to the development, organisation and architecture of this region. This review aims to highlight key issues in the organisation and development of the vertebrate optic chiasm with a focus on comparing and contrasting the data that has been gleaned to date from different vertebrate groups.