The assembly of galaxies over cosmic time is tightly connected to the assembly of their host dark matter halos. We investigate the stellar mass growth history and the chemical enrichment history of central galaxies in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Mapping Nearby Galaxies at Apache Point Observatory. We find that the derived stellar metallicity of passive central galaxies is always higher than that of the star-forming ones. This stellar metallicity enhancement becomes progressively larger toward low-mass galaxies (at a given epoch) and earlier epochs (at a given stellar mass), which suggests strangulation as the primary mechanism for star formation quenching in central galaxies not only in the local Universe but also very likely at higher redshifts up to z ∼ 3. We show that at the same present-day stellar mass, passive central galaxies assembled half of their final stellar mass ∼2 Gyr earlier than star-forming central galaxies, which agrees well with the semi-analytic model. Exploring the semi-analytic model, we find that this is because passive central galaxies reside in, on average, more massive halos with a higher halo mass increase rate across cosmic time. As a consequence, passive central galaxies are assembled faster and also quenched earlier than their star-forming counterparts. While at the same present-day halo mass, different halo assembly history also produces a very different final stellar mass of the central galaxy within, and halos assembled earlier host more massive centrals with a higher quenched fraction, in particular around the “golden halo mass” at 1012 M ⊙. Our results call attention back to the dark matter halo as a key driver of galaxy evolution.

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