Apoptosis, an evolutionarily conserved programme of cellular self-destruction, is essential for the development and survival of most multicellular animals. It is required to ensure functional organ architecture and to maintain tissue homeostasis. During development of the simple nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, apoptosis claims over 10% of the somatic cells that are generated - these cells were healthy but unnecessary. Exciting insights into the regulation and execution of apoptosis in C. elegans have recently been made. These new findings will undoubtedly influence our perception of developmental apoptosis in more complex species, including humans.