Lens wet weights, soluble protein, and activities of γ-glutiamylcysteine synthetase, glutathione synthetase, glutathione peroxidase, and glutathione reductase were determined in primate lenses. The primary sources of lenses were middle-aged adult animals. The Primates, from 23 genera, were categorized into six superfamilies: hominoids (five species), Old World monkeys (seven species), New World monkeys (five species), tarsiers (two species), lemurs (six species), and lorisids (three species). Significant differences between various groups or combinations of groups were noted for γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase, glutathione peroxidase, and glutathione reductase activities. Lenticular γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase activity was very low in the Old World simian lenses and highest in the prosimians. Glutathione peroxidase activity was extraordinarily high in lenses of Old World monkeys. Glutathione reductase activity was low in all the prosimians but tenfold higher in hominoid lenses with intermediate values in monkeys of both the Old World and New World. Glutathione synthetase activity was variable, and no clear pattern which might be useful for primate classification was noted. Lenticular activity ratios of glutathione synthetase:γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase were highest in the Old World simians and lowest in the prosimians. These data with emphasis upon Aotus and the tarsiers were examined with regard to phylogenetic relationships. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.