In 2018 Nick Longrich, David Martill, and Brian Andres named a new genus and species of nyctosaurid, Barbaridactylus grandis. It was found in the Upper Cretaceous Khouribga Phosphate Beds in Morocco, formed in the last one million years of the Mesozoic Era. The genus name refers to the Barbary Coast of north Africa.
Barbaridactylus is known from a single partial skeleton, as well as several isolated humeri. The partial skeleton includes a partial mandible, a single neck vertebra, the left humerus, radius, ulna, and shoulder, and the right femur. The mandible is long, tapering, and toothless with a gentle upward curve. The humerus has a large and rectangular deltopectoral crest, giving the humerus a characteristically hatchet shape. Barbaridactylus has a deltopectoral crest that is less warped with a less constricted base than other nyctosaurids. Barbaridactylus had a wingspan of about 5 meters (16.5 feet).
Longrich and colleagues performed a phylogenetic analysis and found that Barbaridactylus was a nyctosaurid, most closely related to “Nyctosaurus” lamegoi. That was another large species that lived in Brazil at around the same time Barbaridactylus was alive, but is not considered to be part of the genus Nyctosaurus. Barbaridactylus was found to be within a lineage of nyctosaurids that lost the other fingers on their hands other than the wing finger.
Nyctosaurids are found exclusively in rocks formed in marine environments during the Late Cretaceous. They, like their close relatives the pteranodontids, are thought to have been aerial fishers. They may have plucked fish or squid from near the surface, or dove into the ocean after prey. Barbaridactylus was one of four aerial fishers found in the uppermost Cretaceous Khouribga phosphates, living alongside the nyctosaurids Alcione and Simurghia, and the pteranodontid Tethydraco. The sea was warm and teeming with fish with the arid and mountainous African mainland several kilometers to the east.