The population of giant clumps in simulated high-z galaxies: In situ and ex situ migration and survival

Nir Mandelker*, Avishai Dekel, Daniel Ceverino, Dylan Tweed, Christopher E. Moody, Joel Primack

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


We study the properties of giant clumps and their radial gradients in high-z disc galaxies using AMR cosmological simulations. Our sample consists of 770 snapshots in the redshift range z = 4-1 from 29 galaxies that at z = 2 span the stellar mass range (0.2-3) × 1011M⊙. Extended gas discs exist in 83 per cent of the snapshots. Clumps are identified by gas density in 3D and their stellar and dark matter components are considered thereafter. While most of the overdensities are diffuse and elongated, 91 per cent of their mass and 83 per cent of their star formation rate (SFR) are in compact round clumps. Nearly all galaxies have a central, massive bulge clump, while 70 per cent of the discs show off-centre clumps, 3-4 per galaxy. The fraction of clumpy discs peaks at intermediate disc masses. Clumps are divided based on dark matter content into in situ and ex situ originating from violent disc instability (VDI) and minor mergers, respectively. 60 per cent of the discs are in a VDI phase showing off-centre in situ clumps, which contribute 1-7 per cent of the disc mass and 5-45 per cent of its SFR. The in situ clumps constitute 75 per cent of the off-centre clumps in terms of number and SFR but only half the mass, each clump containing on average 1 per cent of the disc mass and 6 per cent of its SFR. They have young stellar ages, 100-400 Myr, and high specific SFR (sSFR), 1-10 Gyr-1. They exhibit gradients resulting from inward clump migration, where the inner clumps are somewhat more massive and older, with lower gas fraction and sSFR and higher metallicity. Similar observed gradients indicate that clumps survive outflows. The ex situ clumps have stellar ages 0.5-3 Gyr and sSFR ~0.1-2 Gyr-1, and they exhibit weaker gradients. Massive clumps of old stars at large radii are likely ex situ mergers, though half of them share the disc rotation.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)3675-3702
Number of pages28
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2014


  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: formation
  • Galaxies: kinematics and dynamics
  • Stars: formation


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