The VIMOS VLT Deep Survey

D. Vergani, M. Scodeggio, L. Pozzetti, A. Iovino, P. Franzetti, B. Garilli, G. Zamorani, D. MacCagni, F. Lamareille, O. Le Fèvre, S. Charlot, T. Contini, L. Guzzo, D. Bottini, V. Le Brun, J. P. Picat, R. Scaramella, L. Tresse, G. Vettolani, A. ZanichelliC. Adami, S. Arnouts, S. Bardelli, M. Bolzonella, A. Cappi, P. Ciliegi, S. Foucaud, I. Gavignaud, O. Ilbert, H. J. McCracken, B. Marano, C. Marinoni, A. Mazure, B. Meneux, R. Merighi, S. Paltani, R. Pellò, A. Pollo, M. Radovich, E. Zucca, M. Bondi, A. Bongiorno, J. Brinchmann, O. Cucciati, S. De La Torre, L. Gregorini, E. Perez-Montero, Y. Mellier, P. Merluzzi, S. Temporin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


Aims. Our aim is to investigate the history of mass assembly for galaxies of different stellar masses and types.Methods. We selected a mass-limited sample of 4048 objects from the VIMOS VLT Deep Survey (VVDS) in the redshift interval 0.5 1.3. We then used an empirical criterion, based on the amplitude of the 4000 Balmer break (4000), to separate the galaxy population into spectroscopically early- and late-type systems. The equivalent width of the [OII]3727 line is used as proxy for the star formation activity. We also derived a type-dependent stellar mass function in three redshift bins.Results. We discuss to what extent stellar mass drives galaxy evolution, showing for the first time the interplay between stellar ages and stellar masses over the past 8 Gyr. Low-mass galaxies have small 4000 and at increasing stellar mass, the galaxy distribution moves to higher 4000 values as observed in the local Universe. As cosmic time goes by, we witness an increasing abundance of massive spectroscopically early-type systems at the expense of the late-type systems. This spectral transformation of late-type systems into old massive galaxies at lower redshift is a process started at early epochs ( > 1.3) and continuing efficiently down to the local Universe. This is also confirmed by the evolution of our type-dependent stellar mass function. The underlying stellar ages of late-type galaxies apparently do not show evolution, most likely as a result of a continuous and efficient formation of new stars. All star formation activity indicators consistently point towards a star formation history peaked in the past for massive galaxies, with little or no residual star formation taking place in the most recent epochs. In contrast, most of the low-mass systems show just the opposite characteristics, with significant star formation present at all epochs. The activity and efficiency of forming stars are mechanisms that depend on galaxy stellar mass, and the stellar mass assembly becomes progressively less efficient in massive systems as time elapses. The concepts of star formation downsizing and mass assembly downsizing describe a single scenario that has a top-down evolutionary pattern in how the star formation is quenched, as well as how the stellar mass is grown. The role of (dry) merging events seems to be only marginal at < 1.3, as our estimated efficiency in stellar mass assembly can possibly account for the progressive accumulation of observed passively evolving galaxies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-101
Number of pages13
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2008


  • Cosmology: observations
  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: formation
  • Galaxies: fundamental parameters
  • Galaxies: luminosity function, mass function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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