# University of Hertfordshire

## The limited role of galaxy mergers in driving stellar mass growth over cosmic time

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

### Documents

• G. Martin
• S. Kaviraj
• J.E.G. Devriendt
• Y. Dubois
• C. Laigle
• C. Pichon
Original language English slx136 5 L50-L54 Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 21 Nov 2017 472 1 5 Sep 2017 10.1093/mnrasl/slx136 Published - 21 Nov 2017

### Abstract

A key unresolved question is the role that galaxy mergers play in driving stellar mass growth over cosmic time. Recent observational work hints at the possibility that the overall contribution of `major' mergers (mass ratios $\gtrsim$1:4) to cosmic stellar mass growth may be small, because they enhance star formation rates by relatively small amounts at high redshift, when much of today's stellar mass was assembled. However, the heterogeneity and relatively small size of today's datasets, coupled with the difficulty in identifying genuine mergers, makes it challenging to $\textit{empirically}$ quantify the merger contribution to stellar mass growth. Here, we use Horizon-AGN, a cosmological hydrodynamical simulation, to comprehensively quantify the contribution of mergers to the star formation budget over the lifetime of the Universe. We show that: (1) both major and minor mergers enhance star formation to similar amounts, (2) the fraction of star formation directly attributable to merging is small at all redshifts (e.g. $\sim$35 and $\sim$20 per cent at z$\sim$3 and z$\sim$1 respectively) and (3) only $\sim$25 per cent of today's stellar mass is directly attributable to galaxy mergers over cosmic time. Our results suggest that smooth accretion, not merging, is the dominant driver of stellar mass growth over the lifetime of the Universe.

### Notes

© The Author(s) 2017. This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society.

ID: 12390525