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I have a group of settlers that live on top of an animal, and I want his skin to be their mode of communication. In the morning, information is transmitted through chromataphores in the skin changing color (don't ask how the info is interpreted, I'm still working on it), and at night use channels and nodes of bio-luminescent light from luciferin-superoxide reactions.

My question is, is there a single chemical or system that can achieve both?

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  • $\begingroup$ You want the morning messages to specifically not produce light of their own? $\endgroup$ – Samuel Dec 7 '15 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ I would prefer it. I plan on having a pastel day theme and monochrome night theme. $\endgroup$ – Justin Alexander Dec 7 '15 at 17:21
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I suspect that such a creature would at least be plausible although most readers probably won't give it a second look even if you used handwavium to explain it.

First, the range of bioluminesence in the real world is rather varied. Secondly, it appears that fireflies can control the exact wavelength of their glow (this is news to me and came up unexpectedly in my search).

So you'd just have to mention that the creature has different cells for each color (I assume, as each color uses a different protein), in a close-packed matrix, and modulates which color is active at what strength via a complex system of modulation involving the water content.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think you've probably nailed it with the firefly link. If the creature uses the exact same mechanism that changes the color of the luminescent light to additionally change the color of reflected light, then you're in business. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Dec 7 '15 at 17:28
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, it came up totally unexpected when I was trying to figure out what the range of colors was. Really cool stuff. $\endgroup$ – Draco18s Dec 8 '15 at 21:05

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