The complete elimination of unwanted cells during development is a repeated theme in both multicellular animals and in plants. In plants, such events have been extensively studied and reviewed in terms of their molecular regulation, of marker genes and proteins expressed, and in terms of cellular changes associated with their progression. This review will take a slightly different view of developmental cell elimination and will concentrate specifically on the numerous elimination events that occur during ovule and seed development (here grouped together as seed development). It asks why this cell elimination occurs in specific seed tissues, in order to understand something about the commonalities underlying how seemingly disparate events are triggered and regulated. Finally, by placing the seed in its broader evolutionary context, the question of why cell elimination may have emerged as such a key component of the seed developmental toolbox will be considered.