He and his team suspect that, like modern birds, the colorful feathers likely were used in displays, such as for mating.
It appears that proto-feathers originally evolved for regulating body temperature. The quill-like contour feathers, on the other hand, could have first evolved for show.
"Once present, these feathers could then be adapted for many other functions, such as balance during fast running, protecting and shading the eggs during breeding, and flight," Rauhut said.
"This is a fine and important piece of work on a great new specimen," said Mark Norell, division chair and curator-in-charge of the American Museum of Natural History's Division of Paleontology. "It clearly shows that the evolution of hind limb feathers is very complex and the evolution of feathers as a whole is de-coupled from flight."
Lawrence Witmer, a professor of anatomy and paleontology at Ohio University, also believes that the new specimen "is a really important find."
Witmer added, "When you combine the new information from Archaeopteryx with what we see in other bird-like dinosaurs and dinosaur-like birds, the picture that emerges is that maybe (quilled) feathers evolved more as ornaments for display and were later co-opted by evolution for flight ... maybe multiple times. I think the authors make a good case. The display argument is very compelling."