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Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society


We analyse absorption line-strength indices for ~3000 red-sequence galaxies in 94 nearby clusters, to investigate systematic variations of their stellar content with location in the host cluster. The data are drawn from the NOAO Fundamental Plane Survey. Our adopted method is a generalization of that introduced by Nelan et al. to determine the global age-mass and metallicity-mass relations from the same survey. We find strong evidence for a change in galaxy properties, at fixed mass, over a range from the cluster centre to the virial radius, R_200. For example, red-sequence galaxies further out in the clusters have weaker Mgb5177 (at ~8 sigma significance) and stronger Hbeta and Hgamma absorption (~3 sigma, ~4 sigma) than galaxies of the same velocity dispersion in the cluster cores. The Fe5270 and Fe5335 indices show only very weak trends with radius. Using a total of twelve indices, the pattern of cluster-centric gradients is considered in light of their different dependences on stellar age and chemical composition. The measured gradients for all twelve indices can be reproduced by a model in which red-sequence galaxies at ~1 R_200 have on average younger ages (by 15+/-4%) and lower alpha-element abundance ratios (by 10+/-2%), than galaxies of the same velocity dispersion but located near the cluster centre. For the total metallicity, Z/H, no significant gradient is found (2+/-3% larger at R_200 than in the core). The cluster-centric age and alpha/Fe gradients are in the sense expected if galaxies in the cluster core were accreted at an earlier epoch than those at larger radii, and if this earlier accretion contributed to an earlier cessation of star formation. The size of the observed age trend is comparable to predictions from semi-analytic models of hierarchical galaxy formation.