In unfavourable conditions, immature C. elegans worms can develop into dauers – developmentally arrested, non-feeding and long-lived forms that resume normal development on feeding. Onp. 1621, Wang and Kim identify the genes that are preferentially expressed in dauer larvae and that undergo expression changes on exit from the dauer state by microarray-based,gene-expression profiling. To differentiate the transcriptional changes that occur in response to food from those that are dauer specific, the authors compared gene expression changes during dauer exit to those that occur in normal worms as they exit starvation. This analysis identified 2430 differentially expressed genes, 1984 of which are dauer specific and 446 of which are food regulated. The dauer-specific genes encode various products and provide a rich data source for future studies of development and ageing.