Programmed cell death during anuran tail resorption is primarily brought about by apoptosis. Cathepsin D, a lysosomal aspartyl protease, is involved in the death of tail tissues. Thus, anuran tail resorption presents an ideal model to study cathepsin-mediated cell death during vertebrate development. Present study describes the trend of specific activity of cathepsin D in the tail of different developmental stages and immunohistochemical localization of cathepsin D in the tail tissues of the common Asian toad, Duttaphrynus melanostictus. Cathepsin D was involved in programmed cell death in epidermis, muscle, spinal cord, and blood cells in the resorbing tail. Interestingly, it was also involved in the pre-resorbing tail before visible tail resorption which indicates initiation of cell death even before actually the tail resorbs. Melanocytes were found to be one of the causative agents in degrading tail tissues and were associated with the degradation of muscle, epidermis and spinal cord of the resorbing tail. J. Morphol. 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.