The stellar mass assembly of galaxies from z = 0 to z = 4: Analysis of a sample selected in the rest-frame near-infrared with Spitzer

Pablo G. Pérez-González, George H. Rieke, Victor Villar, Guillermo Barro, Myra Blaylock, Eiichi Egami, Jesús Gallego, Armando Gil De Paz, Sergio Pascual, Jaime Zamorano, Jennifer L. Donley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

523 Scopus citations


Using a sample of ∼28,000 sources selected at 3.6-4.5 μm with Spitzer observations of the Hubble Deep Field North, the Chandra Deep Field South, and the Lockman Hole (surveyed area ∼664 arcmin2), we study the evolution of the stellar mass content of the universe at 0 < z < 4. We calculate stellar masses and photometric redshifts, based on ∼2000 templates built with stellar population and dust emission models fitting the ultraviolet to mid-infrared spectral energy distributions of galaxies with spectroscopic redshifts. We estimate stellar mass functions for different redshift intervals. We find that 50% of the local stellar mass density was assembled at 0 < z < 1 (average star formation rate [SFR] 0.048 M⊙ yr-1 Mpc-3), and at least another 40% at 1 < z < 4 (average SFR 0.074 M⊙ yr-1 Mpc-3). Our results confirm and quantify the "downsizing" scenario of galaxy formation. The most massive galaxies (M > 1012.0 M⊙ ) assembled the bulk of their stellar content rapidly (in 1-2 Gyr) beyond z ∼ 3 in very intense star formation events (producing high specific SFRs). Galaxies with 10 11.5 < M < 1012.0 M⊙ assembled half of their stellar mass beforez ∼ 1.5, and more than 90% of theirmass was already in place atz ∼ 0.6. Galaxies with M < 1011.5M⊙ evolved more slowly (presenting smaller specific SFRs), assembling half of their stellar mass below z ∼ 1. About 40% of the local stellar mass density of 10 9.0 < M < 1011.0 M⊙ galaxies was assembled below z ∼ 0.4, most probably through accretion of small satellites producing little star formation. The cosmic stellar mass density atz > 2.5 is dominated by optically faint (R ≳ 25) red galaxies (distant red galaxies or BzK sources), which account for ∼30% of the global population of galaxies, but contribute at least 60% of the cosmic stellar mass density. Bluer galaxies (e.g., Lyman break galaxies) are more numerous but less massive, contributing less than 50% of the global stellar mass density at high redshift.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)234-261
Number of pages28
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2008


  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: high-redshift
  • Galaxies: photometry
  • Galaxies: starburst
  • Infrared: galaxies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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