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We study the predicted sub-mm emission from massive galaxies in a Lambda-CDM universe, using hydrodynamic cosmological simulations. Assuming that most of the emission from newly formed stars is absorbed and reradiated in the rest-frame far-IR, we calculate the number of galaxies that would be detected in sub-mm surveys conducted with SCUBA. The predicted number counts are strongly dependent on the assumed dust temperature and emissivity law. With plausible choices for SED parameters (e.g., T=35 K, beta=1.0), the simulation predictions reproduce the observed number counts above ~ 1 mJy. The sources have a broad redshift distribution with median z ~ 2, in reasonable agreement with observational constraints. However, the predicted count distribution may be too steep at the faint end, and the fraction of low redshift objects may be larger than observed.
In this physical model of the sub-mm galaxy population, the objects detected in existing surveys consist mainly of massive galaxies (several M_*) forming stars fairly steadily over timescales ~ 10^8-10^9 years, at moderate rates ~100 Msun/yr. The typical descendants of these sub-mm sources are even more massive galaxies, with old stellar populations, found primarily in dense environments. While the resolution of our simulations is not sufficient to determine galaxy morphologies, these properties support the proposed identification of sub-mm sources with massive ellipticals in the process of formation. The most robust and distinctive prediction of this model, stemming directly from the long timescale and correspondingly moderate rate of star formation, is that the far-IR SEDs of SCUBA sources have a relative high 850 micron luminosity for a given bolometric luminosity. [Abridged]


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