From discs to bulges: Effect of mergers on the morphology of galaxies

Rahul Kannan, Andrea V. Macciò, Fabio Fontanot, Benjamin P. Moster, Wouter Karman, Rachel S. Somerville

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We study the effect of mergers on the morphology of galaxies by means of the simulated merger tree approach first proposed by Moster et al. This method combines N-body cosmological simulations and semi-analytic techniques to extract realistic initial conditions for galaxy mergers. These are then evolved using high-resolution hydrodynamical simulations, which include dark matter, stars, cold gas in the disc and hot gas in the halo. We show that the satellite mass accretion is not as effective as previously thought, as there is substantial stellar stripping before the final merger. The fraction of stellar disc mass transferred to the bulge is quite low, even in the case of a major merger, mainly due to the dispersion of part of the stellar disc mass into the halo. We confirm the findings of Hopkins et al., that a gas-rich disc is able to survive major mergers more efficiently. The enhanced star formation associated with the merger is not localized to the bulge of galaxy, but a substantial fraction takes place in the disc too. The inclusion of the hot gas reservoir in the galaxy model contributes to reducing the efficiency of bulge formation. Overall, our findings suggest that mergers are not as efficient as previously thought in transforming discs into bulges. This possibly alleviates some of the tensions between observations of bulgeless galaxies and the hierarchical scenario for structure formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4347-4360
Number of pages14
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 16 2015


  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: interactions
  • Galaxies: structure
  • Methods: numerical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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