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Supermassive black holes do not correlate with galaxy disks or pseudobulges


The masses of supermassive black holes are known to correlate with the properties of the bulge components of their host galaxies1,2,3,4,5. In contrast, they seem not to correlate with galaxy disks1. Disk-grown ‘pseudobulges’ are intermediate in properties between bulges and disks6; it has been unclear whether they do1,5 or do not7,8,9 correlate with black holes in the same way that bulges do. At stake in this issue are conclusions about which parts of galaxies coevolve with black holes10, possibly by being regulated by energy feedback from black holes11. Here we report pseudobulge classifications for galaxies with dynamically detected black holes and combine them with recent measurements of velocity dispersions in the biggest bulgeless galaxies12. These data confirm that black holes do not correlate with disks and show that they correlate little or not at all with pseudobulges. We suggest that there are two different modes of black-hole feeding. Black holes in bulges grow rapidly to high masses when mergers drive gas infall that feeds quasar-like events. In contrast, small black holes in bulgeless galaxies and in galaxies with pseudobulges grow as low-level Seyfert galaxies. Growth of the former is driven by global processes, so the biggest black holes coevolve with bulges, but growth of the latter is driven locally and stochastically, and they do not coevolve with disks and pseudobulges.

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Figure 1: Correlations of dynamically measured black-hole masses with the luminosities of different parts of their host galaxies.
Figure 2: Correlation of dynamically measured black-hole masses with the velocity dispersions of their host galaxies.


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We acknowledge with pleasure our collaboration with N. Drory on work leading up to this paper. We thank N. Drory and J. Greene for helpful comments on the manuscript and J. Greene for communicating the maser black-hole detection results before publication. We also thank K. Gebhardt for permission to use M[circle 50 percent shaded] values for NGC 4736 and NGC 4826, and J. Jardel for permission to use his updated M[circle 50 percent shaded] value for NGC 4594 before publication. Some data used here were obtained with the Hobby–Eberly Telescope (HET), which is a joint project of the University of Texas at Austin, Pennsylvania State University, Stanford University, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich and Georg-August-Universität Göttingen. It is named in honour of its principal benefactors, W. P. Hobby and R. E. Eberly. We made extensive use of data from the Two Micron All Sky Survey, a joint project of the University of Massachusetts and the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC)/California Institute of Technology funded by NASA and by the National Science Foundation (NSF). We also made extensive use of the NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database (NED), which is operated by California Institute of Technology and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory under contract with NASA; of the HyperLeda database (; and of the NASA Astrophysics Data System bibliographic services. Finally, we are grateful to the NSF for grant support.

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J.K. led the programme, carried out the analysis for this paper and wrote most of the text. M.E.C. oversaw the HET observations, preprocessed the HET spectra and provided technical support throughout the project. R.B. calculated the velocity dispersions from the HET spectra and made all least-squares fits. All authors contributed to the writing of the paper.

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Correspondence to John Kormendy.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Kormendy, J., Bender, R. & Cornell, M. Supermassive black holes do not correlate with galaxy disks or pseudobulges. Nature 469, 374–376 (2011).

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