The bias of the submillimetre galaxy population: SMGs are poor tracers of the most-massive structures in the z ~ 2 Universe

Tim B. Miller, Christopher C. Hayward, Scott C. Chapman, Peter S. Behroozi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


It is often claimed that overdensities of (or even individual bright) submillimetre-selected galaxies (SMGs) trace the assembly of themost-massive darkmatter structures in theUniverse. We test this claim by performing a counts-in-cells analysis of mock SMG catalogues derived from the Bolshoi cosmological simulation to investigate how well SMG associations trace the underlying dark matter structure. We find that SMGs exhibit a relatively complex bias: some regions of high SMG overdensity are underdense in terms of dark matter mass, and some regions of high darkmatter overdensity contain no SMGs. Because of their rarity, Poisson noise causes scatter in the SMG overdensity at fixed dark matter overdensity. Consequently, rich associations of less-luminous, more-abundant galaxies (i.e. Lyman-break galaxy analogues) trace the highest dark matter overdensities much better than SMGs. Even on average, SMG associations are relatively poor tracers of the most significant darkmatter overdensities because of 'downsizing': at z ≲ 2.5, the most-massive galaxies that reside in the highest dark matter overdensities have already had their star formation quenched and are thus no longer SMGs. At a given redshift, of the 10 per cent most-massive overdensities, only ~25 per cent contain at least one SMG, and less than a fewper cent contain more than one SMG.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)878-883
Number of pages6
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 28 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Cosmology: theory
  • Galaxies: clusters: general
  • Galaxies: high-redshift
  • methods: numerical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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