Galaxy evolution in cosmological simulations with outflows - II. Metallicities and gas fractions

Romeel Davé*, Kristian Finlator, Benjamin D. Oppenheimer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We use cosmological hydrodynamic simulations to investigate how inflows, star formation and outflows govern the gaseous and metal content of galaxies within a hierarchical structure formation context. In our simulations, galaxy metallicities are established by a balance between inflows and outflows as governed by the mass outflow rate, implying that the mass-metallicity relation reflects how the outflow rate varies with stellar mass. Gas content, meanwhile, is set by a competition between inflow into and gas consumption within the interstellar medium, the latter being governed by the star formation law, while the former is impacted by both wind recycling and preventive feedback. Stochastic variations in the inflow rate move galaxies off the equilibrium mass-metallicity and mass-gas fraction relations in a manner correlated with the star formation rate, and the scatter is set by the time-scale to re-equilibrate. The evolution of both relations from z= 3 → 0 is slow, as individual galaxies tend to evolve mostly along the relations. Gas fractions at a given stellar mass slowly decrease with time because the cosmic inflow rate diminishes faster than the consumption rate, while metallicities slowly increase as infalling gas becomes more enriched. Observations from z~ 3 → 0 are better matched by simulations employing momentum-driven wind scalings rather than constant wind speeds, but all models predict too low gas fractions at low masses and too high metallicities at high masses. All our models reproduce observed second-parameter trends of the mass-metallicity relation with the star formation rate and environment, indicating that these are a consequence of equilibrium and not feedback. Overall, the analytical framework of our equilibrium scenario broadly captures the relevant physics establishing the galaxy gas and metal content in simulations, which suggests that the cycle of baryonic inflows and outflows centrally governs the cosmic evolution of these properties in typical star-forming galaxies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1354-1376
Number of pages23
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2011


  • Galaxies: abundances
  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: formation
  • Galaxies: high-redshift
  • Galaxies: statistics
  • Methods: numerical


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