Evidence for (and against) progenitor bias in the size growth of compact red galaxies

Stephanie K. Keating, Roberto G. Abraham, Ricardo Schiavon, Genevieve Graves, Ivana Damjanov, Y. A.N. Renbin, Jeffrey Newman, Luc Simard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Most massive, passive galaxies are compact at high redshifts, but similarly compact massive galaxies are rare in the local universe. The most common interpretation of this phenomenon is that massive galaxies have grown in size by a factor of about five since redshift z = 2. An alternative explanation is that recently quenched massive galaxies are larger (a "progenitor bias"). In this paper, we explore the importance of progenitor bias by looking for systematic differences in the stellar populations of compact early-type galaxies in the DEEP2 survey as a function of size. Our analysis is based on applying the statistical technique of bootstrap resampling to constrain differences in the median ages of our samples and to begin to characterize the distribution of stellar populations in our co-added spectra. The light-weighted ages of compact early-type galaxies at redshifts 0.5 < z < 1.4 are compared to those of a control sample of larger galaxies at similar redshifts.We find that massive compact early-type galaxies selected on the basis of red color and high bulge-to-total ratio are younger than similarly selected larger galaxies, suggesting that size growth in these objects is not driven mainly by progenitor bias, and that individual galaxies grow as their stellar populations age. However, compact early-type galaxies selected on the basis of image smoothness and high bulge-to-total ratio are older than a control sample of larger galaxies. Progenitor bias will play a significant role in defining the apparent size changes of early-type galaxies if they are selected on the basis of the smoothness of their light distributions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number26
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.


  • Galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD
  • Galaxies: evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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