Genomic imprinting is a phenomenon whereby the expression of an allele differs depending upon its parent of origin. There is an increasing number of examples of this form of epigenetic inheritance across a wide range of taxa, and imprinting errors have also been implicated in several human diseases. Various hypotheses have been put forward to explain the evolution of genomic imprinting, but there is not yet a widely accepted general hypothesis for the variety of imprinting patterns observed. Here a new evolutionary hypothesis, based on intralocus sexual conflict, is proposed. This hypothesis provides a potential explanation for much of the currently available empirical data, and it also makes new predictions about patterns of genomic imprinting that are expected to evolve but that have not, as of yet, been looked for in nature. This theory also provides a potential mechanism for the resolution of intralocus sexual conflict in sexually selected traits and a novel pathway for the evolution of sexual dimorphism.
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