Major nonprimate-primate differences in cortico-genesis include the dimensions, precursor lineages, and developmental timing of the germinal zones (GZs). microRNAs (miRNAs) of laser-dissected GZ compartments and cortical plate (CP) from embryonic E80 macaque visual cortex were deep sequenced. The CP and the GZ including ventricular zone (VZ) and outer and inner subcompartments of the outer subventricular zone (OSVZ) in area 17 displayed unique miRNA profiles. miRNAs present in primate, but absent in rodent, contributed disproportionately to the differential expression between GZ subregions. Prominent among the validated targets of these miRNAs were cell-cycle and neurogenesis regulators. Coevolution between the emergent miRNAs and their targets suggested that novel miRNAs became integrated into ancient gene circuitry to exert additional control over proliferation. We conclude that multiple cell-cycle regulatory events contribute to the emergence of primate-specific cortical features, including the OSVZ, generated enlarged supragranular layers, largely responsible for the increased primate cortex computational abilities.