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In the new setting I'm making, I found an opportunity to make a species of humanoids that I simply couldn't resist. So I got to work, making the tribal herdsmen and hunters of the predominantly carnivorous Luugitsu. Though I've come to an impasse.

They are a species with a rare trait--which I call polythermy--that causes them to be able to change whether they are endothermic or ectothermic based on changing ambient temperatures, and are highly effective at comfortably surviving under a wider range of natural temperatures. Whether this will affect the answer or not I have no idea. Hell, it could cause them to have changing skin colours like Space Marines from Warhammer 40k. But they're also very skilled hunters and, when at war, guerrilla warriors, which I'm certain will most definitely affect their skin colour, or may possibly add patterns of contrasting colours to their skin. But with these in mind, what would be the most likely skin colour--and possibly coloured patterns--that they would select for?

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    $\begingroup$ Shades of colors around them. Who knows if your world is green, orange or pink. $\endgroup$ – Artemijs Danilovs Nov 23 '18 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ Just assume relatively Earth-like colours. $\endgroup$ – Dead Knight Nov 23 '18 at 20:29
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think that temperature really has any relation to skin color. As far as I understand skin color evolves as a reaction to external stimuli, like blending in with the environment. In humans the only relation is that people in warmer climates tend to have darker skin, but that isn't actually because of the temperature but because of higher exposure to ultra-violet radiation from the sun. In most animals a similar pattern is seen, but fur, feathers, or scales will often be more vibrant colors for widely varying reasons though. $\endgroup$ – TitaniumTurtle Nov 23 '18 at 20:43
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    $\begingroup$ Are they ambush hunters like leopards, sprint hunters like cheetahs, team hunters like lions, endurance hunters like wolves? $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Nov 23 '18 at 21:04
  • $\begingroup$ Black for ambush in forests, Brown/orange for ambush in savanna, black/grey in water etc.... Predators have bland and basic colors, usually animals develop strange colors more for defense than for predatory reasons. $\endgroup$ – user56803 Nov 23 '18 at 21:25
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Consider that homo sapiens is a highly adaptable hunter humanoid, and you will see that within our own biochemistry the range is from nearly black to nearly white - essentially any color that can be created by density of melanin over unpigmented flesh and blood

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't think humans evolved skin colors for the purpose of hunting, however. Our primate ancestors lived in trees and ate fruits, nuts, and small animals. Our main technique in killing large herbivores was the ability of our skin to SWEAT, which cooled off our core temperatures. It gave our ancestors the ability to run down almost any animal over a great distance since those animals would eventually collapse from heat exhaustion. When our ancestors needed camouflage, they were smart enough to use dyes and charcoal to paint their bodies. $\endgroup$ – hyperion4 Nov 24 '18 at 3:58
  • $\begingroup$ Evolution is not for a purpose, it's a blind result of success. $\endgroup$ – pojo-guy Nov 24 '18 at 5:09
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Something you need to take into account is the visual system of these people and their prey & predators. Most placental mammals are dichromats https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dichromacy#Animals_that_are_dichromats rather than trichromats like humans and some other primates, which probably goes a long way towards explaining the rather muted color schemes of mammals: variations on black, white, and reddish-brown. There's little point in evolving colors if they can't be seen.

Many birds (and reptiles!), by contrast, are tetrachromats, being able to see ultraviolet as well as what humans see. Even birds that are rather drab to human eyes are often strongly colored in the ultraviolet: https://www.nwf.org/Magazines/National-Wildlife/2012/AugSept/Animals/Bird-Vision

So if your people, and their evolutionary ancestors, can distinguish a variety of wavelengths, they might evolve colorful integuments like the feathers of parrots or peafowl. Or they might become like chameleons, able to change colors depending on their environment: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chameleon#Change_of_color

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Consider camouflage colors, for desert, forest, water, city, or whatever environment they do most of their hunting in. Splotches of the most common colors found in such environments. Although splotches are common in natural settings, urban camo may involve straight lines and shadow; due to straight lines being most prevalent in man-made structures.

Perhaps like cuttlefish, (or google cuttlefish for many other videos) they could change color dynamically on the fly, to match any background. That is from real-life; and although cuttlefish use it to hide from predators, it would be equally useful in attack or subterfuge for soldiers.

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Earth humans living near the poles have evolved to be pale. Humans living near the equator tend to have darker skin. This is a response to the level of sunlight and the need to synthesise vitamin D.

Your humanoids could turn pale when they are in cold conditions and dark when they are in hot conditions.

When they are partly in shade then their bodies have patches of each colour.

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If the Luugitsu want to take advantage of natural sunlight their skins would have to be green. Plants are green because they absorb the sun's energy in the blue and red wavelengths, while reflecting the green wavelengths. In cold climates though the skin color isn't as important as having thermal insulation layers, such as fur or downy feathers. Human backpackers wear jackets with SILVER reflective lining to bounce heat back to their bodies, while some athletes train in hot climates with artificial cooling systems because body temperature matters more than skin temperature, so the skin color of the Luugitsu may not be much of an advantage against a moderately advanced population of human colonists.

https://www.ezcooldown.com/us/shop-by-use/athletes-sports-cooling-vests

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  • $\begingroup$ I've been backpacking pretty much all my adult life, and have never seen a jacket with a reflective lining. The closest thing I can think of are the lightweight reflective emergency blankets. The problem is that you need to wick perspiration away from the skin, so you don't want a reflective barrier for long-term wear, $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Nov 24 '18 at 17:57

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