How demography, life history, and kinship shape the evolution of genomic imprinting

Jeremy Van Cleve, Marcus W. Feldman, Laurent Lehmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


How phenomena like helping, dispersal, or the sex ratio evolve depends critically on demographic and life-history factors. One phenotype that is of particular interest to biologists is genomic imprinting, which results in parent-of-origin-specific gene expression and thus deviates from the predictions of Mendel's rules. The most prominent explanation for the evolution of genomic imprinting, the kinship theory, originally specified that multiple paternity can cause the evolution of imprinting when offspring affect maternal resource provisioning. Most models of the kinship theory do not detail how population subdivision, demography, and life history affect the evolution of imprinting. In this work, we embed the classic kinship theory within an island model of population structure and allow for diverse demographic and life-history features to affect the direction of selection on imprinting. We find that population structure does not change how multiple paternity affects the evolution of imprinting under the classic kinship theory. However, if the degree of multiple paternity is not too large, we find that sex-specific migration and survival and generation overlap are the primary factors determining which allele is silenced. This indicates that imprinting can evolve purely as a result of sex-related asymmetries in the demographic structure or life history of a species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)440-455
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Dominance
  • Kinship theory
  • Overlapping generations
  • Sex-biased dispersal
  • Sex-specific selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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