Macrocilia are thick compound ciliary organelles found on the lips of the ctenophore Beroë. Each macrocilium contains several hundred axonemes enclosed by a single common membrane around the shaft of the organelle. Macrocilia are activated to beat rapidly and continuously in the normal direction by stimulus-triggered Ca influx through voltage-dependent Ca channels (Tamm, 1988). Heat-dissociated macrociliary cells are spontaneously active without depolarizing stimuli, providing Ca is present (Tamm, 1988). Here we investigate the spatial distribution of macrociliary Ca channels by iontophoretic application of extracellular Ca to different sites along quiescent, "potentially activated" macrocilia of dissociated cells in Ca-free medium. We find that Ca sensitivity for eliciting motility is highest or resides exclusively on the basal portion of the macrociliary surface. This is the first demonstration of local differences in Ca sensitivity along living cilia or flagella. The Ca-sensitive region coincides morphologically with a reticulum of unfused ciliary membranes at the base of the macrocilium. This ciliary rete is in direct communication with the surrounding sea water. It is likely that the ciliary rete provides the necessary Ca influx to trigger beating by virtue of its greater Ca conductance (i.e., density of Ca channels) and/or greater total membrane area.