The IMACS Cluster Building Survey: V. Further Evidence for Starburst Recycling from Quantitative Galaxy Morphologies
Using J and K_s band imaging obtained as part of the IMACS Cluster Building Survey (ICBS) we measure Sérsic indices for 2160 field and cluster galaxies at 0.31 < z < 0.54. We compare the distributions for spectroscopically determined passive, continuously starforming, starburst, and poststarburst systems and show that previously established spatial/statistical connections between these types extend to their gross morphologies. Outside of cluster cores, we find close structural ties between starburst and continuously starforming, as well as poststarburst and passive types, but not between starbursts and poststarbursts. These results independently support two conclusions presented in a previous ICBS paper (Dressler et al.): 1) most starbursts are the product of a non-disruptive triggering mechanism that is insensitive to global environment, such as minor-mergers; 2) starbursts and poststarbursts largely represent transient phases in the lives of "normal" starforming and quiescent galaxies, respectively, originating from and returning to these systems in closed "recycling" loops. In this picture, spectroscopically identified poststarbursts constitute a minority of all recently terminated starbursts and the starburst phenomenon is largely decoupled from passive galaxy production in all but the densest environments.