An analytic solution for the minimal bathtub toy model: Challenges in the star formation history of high-z galaxies

Avishai Dekel*, Nir Mandelker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


We study the minimal 'bathtub' toy model as a tool for capturing key processes of galaxy evolution and identifying robust successes and challenges in reproducing high-z observations. The source and sink terms of the continuity equations for gas and stars are expressed in simple terms from first principles. The assumed dependence of star formation rate (SFR) on gas mass self-regulates the system into a unique asymptotic behaviour, which is approximated by an analytic quasi-steady-state (QSS) solution. We address the validity of the QSS at different epochs independent of earlier conditions. At high z, where the accretion is gaseous, the specific SFR (sSFR) is predicted to be sSFR ≃ [(1 + z)/3]5/2 Gyr-1, slightly above the cosmological specific accretion rate, as observed at z = 3-8. The gas fraction is expected to decline slowly, and the observations constrain the SFR efficiency per dynamical time to ε ≃ 0.02. The stellarto- virial mass ratio fsv is predicted to be constant in time, and the observed value requires an outflow mass-loading factor n ≃ 1-3, depending on the penetration efficiency of gas into the galaxy. However, at z ~ 2, where stars are also accreted through mergers, there is a conflict between model and observations. The model that maximizes the sSFR, with the outflows fully recycled, underestimates the sSFR by a factor of ~3 and overestimates fsv. With strong outflows, the model can match the observed fsv but then it underestimates the sSFR by an order of magnitude. We discuss potential remedies including a bias due to the exclusion of quenched galaxies.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2071-2084
Number of pages14
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 The Authors.


  • Galaxies: Evolution
  • Galaxies: Formation
  • Galaxies: Kinematics and dynamics
  • Galaxies: Spiral


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