Molecular and atomic gas in dust lane early-type galaxies - I. Low star-formation efficiencies in minor merger remnants

Timothy A. Davis, Kate Rowlands, James R. Allison, Stanislav S. Shabala, Yuan-Sen Ting, Claudia del P. Lagos, Sugata Kaviraj, Nathan Bourne, Loretta Dunne, Steve Eales, Rob J. Ivison, Steve Maddox, Daniel J. B. Smith, Matthew W. L. Smith, Pasquale Temi

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In this work we present IRAM-30m telescope observations of a sample of bulge-dominated galaxies with large dust lanes, which have had a recent minor merger. We find these galaxies are very gas rich, with H2 masses between 4x108 and 2x1010 Msun. We use these molecular gas masses, combined with atomic gas masses from an accompanying paper, to calculate gas-to-dust and gas-to-stellar mass ratios. The gas-to-dust ratios of our sample objects vary widely (between ≈50 and 750), suggesting many objects have low gas-phase metallicities, and thus that the gas has been accreted through a recent merger with a lower mass companion. We calculate the implied minor companion masses and gas fractions, finding a median predicted stellar mass ratio of ≈40:1. The minor companion likely had masses between ≈107 - 1010 Msun. The implied merger mass ratios are consistent with the expectation for low redshift gas-rich mergers from simulations. We then go on to present evidence that (no matter which star-formation rate indicator is used) our sample objects have very low star-formation efficiencies (star-formation rate per unit gas mass), lower even than the early-type galaxies from ATLAS3D which already show a suppression. This suggests that minor mergers can actually suppress star-formation activity. We discuss mechanisms that could cause such a suppression, include dynamical effects induced by the minor merger.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3503-3516
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
Early online date9 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015


  • Galaxies: elliptical and lenticular
  • cD-ISM: molecules
  • Galaxies: ISM
  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: interactions


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