The Molecular Gas Content of z < 0.1 Radio Galaxies: Linking the Active Galactic Nucleus Accretion Mode to Host Galaxy Properties
One of the main achievements in modern cosmology is the so-called unified model, which successfully describes most classes of active galactic nuclei (AGNs) within a single physical scheme. However, there is a particular class of radio-luminous AGNs that presently cannot be explained within this framework—the "low-excitation" radio AGN (LERAGN). Recently, a scenario has been put forward which predicts that LERAGNs and their regular "high-excitation" radio AGN (HERAGN) counterparts represent different (red sequence versus green valley) phases of galaxy evolution. These different evolutionary states are also expected to be reflected in their host galaxy properties, in particular their cold gas content. To test this, here we present CO(1→0) observations toward a sample of 11 of these systems conducted with CARMA. Combining our observations with literature data, we derive molecular gas masses (or upper limits) for a complete, representative, sample of 21 z < 0.1 radio AGNs. Our results yield that HERAGNs on average have a factor of ~7 higher gas masses than LERAGNs. We also infer younger stellar ages, lower stellar, halo, and central supermassive black masses, as well as higher black hole accretion efficiencies in HERAGNs relative to LERAGNs. These findings support the idea that HERAGNs and LERAGNs form two physically distinct populations of galaxies that reflect different stages of massive galaxy buildup.