The compartmental organization of visual cortical neurons was examined across species of primates by directly comparing the pattern of immunoreactivity for the 28-kD vitamin D-dependent calcium-binding protein (calbindin) in area 17 of squirrel monkeys, macaques, and neurologically normal adult humans. Area 17 of macaques and squirrel monkeys was similar in that somata and processes intensely immunoreactive for calbindin were present in the same layers (II-III, IVB, and V) and in both species formed a well-stained matrix that surrounded the CO-rich puffs in layer III. These intensely calbindin-immunoreactive neurons were identified as subpopulations of GABA-immunoreactive neurons. Among the most obvious differences in the two monkey species was the distribution of calbindin-positive elements outside of layer III: a dense immunostained matrix surrounded the puffs in layers II, IVB, V, and VI of squirrel monkeys but the immunostained neurons adopted no regular pattern outside layer III in macaques. In addition, although somata lightly immunoreactive for calbindin were present in both species, they were much more abundant in squirrel monkeys than macaques. The pattern of calbindin immunostaining in human area 17 resembled that of macaques in forming an intense matrix that surrounded puffs only in layer III, yet also resembled that of squirrel monkeys by including large numbers of lightly immunoreactive somata. These lightly immunostained somata included a very dense population forming a prominent band in layer IVA of human visual cortex. We conclude that for layer III of primary visual cortex, a similar pattern of neuronal chemistry exists across species of primates which is related to this layer's compartmental organization. Yet for other layers, the expression of calbindin immunoreactivity varies from one species to the next, perhaps reflecting variations in other neuronal properties.