BACKGROUND: The parenchyma of the brain does not contain lymphatics. Consequently, it has been assumed that arachnoid projections into the cranial venous system are responsible for cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) absorption. However, recent quantitative and qualitative evidence in sheep suggest that nasal lymphatics have the major role in CSF transport. Nonetheless, the applicability of this concept to other species, especially to humans has never been clarified. The purpose of this study was to compare the CSF and nasal lymph associations in human and non-human primates with those observed in other mammalian species. METHODS: Studies were performed in sheep, pigs, rabbits, rats, mice, monkeys and humans. Immediately after sacrifice (or up to 7 hours after death in humans), yellow Microfil was injected into the CSF compartment. The heads were cut in a sagittal plane. RESULTS: In the seven species examined, Microfil was observed primarily in the subarachnoid space around the olfactory bulbs and cribriform plate. The contrast agent followed the olfactory nerves and entered extensive lymphatic networks in the submucosa associated with the olfactory and respiratory epithelium. This is the first direct evidence of the association between the CSF and nasal lymph compartments in humans. CONCLUSIONS: The fact that the pattern of Microfil distribution was similar in all species tested, suggested that CSF absorption into nasal lymphatics is a characteristic feature of all mammals including humans. It is tempting to speculate that some disorders of the CSF system (hydrocephalus and idiopathic intracranial hypertension for example) may relate either directly or indirectly to a lymphatic CSF absorption deficit.