Evolution of N/O ratios in galaxies from cosmological hydrodynamical simulations
We study the redshift evolution of the gas-phase O/H and N/O abundances, both (i) for individual interstellar medium (ISM) regions within single spatially resolved galaxies and (ii) when dealing with average abundances in the whole ISM of many unresolved galaxies. We make use of a cosmological hydrodynamical simulation including detailed chemical enrichment, which properly takes into account the variety of different stellar nucleosynthetic sources of O and N in galaxies. We identify 33 galaxies in the simulation, lying within dark matter haloes with virial mass in the range 10 11 ≤ M DM ≤ 10 13 M ⊙ and reconstruct how they evolved with redshift. For the local and global measurements, the observed increasing trend of N/O at high O/H can be explained, respectively, (i) as the consequence of metallicity gradients that have settled in the galaxy ISM, where the innermost galactic regions have the highest O/H abundances and the highest N/O ratios, and (ii) as the consequence of an underlying average mass-metallicity relation that galaxies obey as they evolve across cosmic epochs, where - at any redshift - less massive galaxies have lower average O/H and N/O ratios than the more massive ones. We do not find a strong dependence on the environment. For both local and global relations, the predicted N/O-O/H relation is due to the mostly secondary origin of N in stars. We also predict that the O/H and N/O gradients in the galaxy ISM gradually flatten as functions of redshift, with the average N/O ratios being strictly coupled with the galaxy star formation history. Because N production strongly depends on O abundances, we obtain a universal relation for the N/O-O/H abundance diagram whether we consider average abundances of many unresolved galaxies put together or many abundance measurements within a single spatially resolved galaxy.