The breakdown of nasal capsule cartilage precedes secondary pneumatic expansion of the paranasal sinuses. Recent work indicates the nasal capsule of monkeys undergoes different ontogenetic transformations regionally (i.e., ossification, persistence as cartilage, or resorption). This study assesses nasal capsule morphology at the perinatal age in a taxonomically broad sample of non-human primates. Using traditional histochemical methods, osteopontin immunohistochemistry and tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase procedure, the cartilage of the lateral nasal wall (LNC) was studied. At birth, matrix properties differ between portions of the LNC that ultimately form elements of the ethmoid bone and regions of the LNC that have no postnatal (descendant) structure. The extent of cartilage that remains in the paranasal parts of the LNC varies among species. It is fragmented in species with the greatest extent of maxillary and/or frontal pneumatic expansion. Conversely, greater continuity of the LNC is noted in newborns of species that lack maxillary and/or frontal sinuses as adults. Chondroclasts occur adjacent to elements of the ethmoid bone, along the margin of the nasal tectum, and/or along islands of cartilage that bear no signs of ossification. Chondroclasts are prevalent along remnants of the paranasal LNC in tamarin species (Leontopithecus, Saguinus), which have extensive frontal and maxillary bone pneumatization. Taken together, the morphological observations indicate that the localized loss of cartilage might be considered a critical event at the onset of secondary pneumatization, facilitated by rapid recruitment of chondro-/osteoclasts, possibly occurring simultaneously in cartilage and bone. Anat Rec, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.