Previous studies from this laboratory (M.E. Bronner-Fraser, 1982, Dev. Biol. 91, 50-63) have demonstrated that latex beads translocate ventrally after injection into avian embryos during the phase of neural crest migration, to settle in the vicinity of neural-crest-derived structures. In order to examine the role of host neural crest cells in the ventral translocation of implanted beads, latex beads have been injected into regions of embryos from which the neural crest cells have been ablated using a laser microbeam. Prior to their migratory phase, neural crest cells reside in the dorsal portion of the neural tube. Laser irradiation of the dorsal neural tube was used to reproducibly achieve either partial or complete ablation of neural crest cells from the irradiated regions. The effectiveness of the ablation was assessed by the degree of reduction in dorsal root ganglia, a neural crest derivative. Because of the rapidity and precision of this technique, it was possible to selectively remove neural crest cells without significantly altering other embryonic structures. The results indicate that, after injection of latex beads into the somites of embryos whose neural crest cells were removed by laser irradiation, the beads translocate ventrally in the absence of the endogenous neural crest.