This issue is the proceeding of a symposium held at the 1998 Annual Meeting of the Ornithological Society of Japan, Kitakyushu City. Biochemical techniques have made remarkable progress and become a powerful tool in ornithology as well as in other fields of life science.An aim of the symposium is to review current situation of biochemical analysis in the fields of ornithology, such as systematics, population genetics, behavioral ecology, population ecology and conservation ecology.
Human activities resulting from habitat loss and fragmentation have seriously threatened many birds and other fauna to the point of extinction. Almost 20% of bird species were categorized as either endangered or 'nearly threatened' species in 1996 IUCN Red data list.Recent advances in molecular techniques provide us with many tools appropriate to conservation in addition to the field of population biology.Allozyme analysis, DNA sequencing, minisatellite, microsatellite, and random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) procedures enable us to identify parentage, pedigree, founder and bottleneck effects, population structure, effective population size, phylogenetic relationships among populations, as wll as gene flow within and between populations. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of small amounts of DNA (nanogram), enable us to analyse genetic profiles without harming endangered birds. They also provide us with sophiscated techniques for analysis of metapopulation structure, hybridization, phylogenetic relationship within and between populations. All information regarding genetic population structure is important for the conservation of endagered bird species. In this review, I highlight the role of molecular techniques for studying bird population structures and for the effective planning of bird conservation strategies. Detailed knowledge of the relationship between genetic variation, environmental factors and fitness are all necessary if bird populations are to be successfully conserved.