Apoptosis is an evolutionarily conserved process used by multicellular organisms to developmentally regulate cell number or to eliminate cells that are potentially detrimental to the organism. The major players are caspases, caspase inhibitors, members of the Bcl-2 family of pro- and anti-apoptotic proteins and adaptors of the Ced-4/APAF-1 type. Mammals, by comparison with Caenorhabditis and Drosophila, exhibit highly complex extrinsic and intrinsic pathways for apoptosis induction. However, recent analyses of whole genome sequences from cnidarians (e.g. Hydra) suggest that the caspase and Bcl-2 families were already highly complex in cnidarians and that Caenorhabditis and Drosophila lost many of the genes involved in apoptosis.