The large nyctosaurid Simurghia robusta was discovered in Moroccan rocks deposited in the last one million years of the Cretaceous Period, right before the mass extinction. It was described by Nick Longrich, David Martill, and Brian Andres in 2018, and is based on a single, distinctive humerus. The name honors Simurgh, a giant bird-like creature of Persian myth.
The only known specimen of Simurghia is a mostly complete right humerus, missing the humeral head and a small portion of the distal end that articulates with the ulna. The bone has a large and fan-shaped deltopectoral crest that gives the whole bone a superficially hatchet shape. The deltopectoral crest is a large flat extension of bone on the humerus near the shoulder joint that anchored the powerful deltoid and pectoral muscles. The shape and angle of the deltopectoral crest in all nyctosaurids make them especially hatchet-shaped, but details of the shape and location of the deltopectoral crest and details of the elbow joint distinguish Simurghia from all other nyctosaurids. Although incomplete, its wingspan can be estimated to be about 4 meters (13 feet).
Longrich and colleagues found Simurghia to be most closely related to Alcione, found in the same latest Cretaceous Moroccan sediments. They mention that it also has similarities with ‘Nyctosaurys’ lamegoi, a large nyctosaurid from Brazil. Nyctosaurids were medium to large marine fishers found in Upper Cretaceous shallow marine rocks. They all have long toothless bills, short necks and torsos and especially long narrow wings. They are closely related to the pteranodontids, also toothless marine fishers. Simurghia may or may not have had a cranial crest; pteranodontids have cranial crests and Nyctosaurus has one of the largest cranial crests of all pterosaurs, but Muzquizopteryx is crestless.
Simurghia was found in marine sediments deposited in relatively deep water off the coast of Africa at a time of higher sea levels. At the time, the area still had a hot climate with a mountainous and arid mainland. The sea was teeming with fish and was patrolled by at least two other nyctosaurids and a pteranodontid, as well as marine reptiles.