The Cleveland Shale fauna represents a unique view of the time after a major Devonian extinction event (Frasnian–Famenian) with the recovery of arthrodires (Placodermi) best represented by this most specious North American fauna. This time was followed by an additional event (Hangenberg Biocrisis) leading to the extinction of arthrodires (and all other placoderms). An understanding of the diversity and interrelationships of North American arthrodires can aid our understanding of this critical time in vertebrate evolution. A new aspinothoracid arthrodire Hlavinichthys jacksoni gen. et sp. nov. is described from the Late Devonian of northern Ohio, U.S.A., which adds to our knowledge of this group. It provides a point of comparison to other members of the fauna whose interrelationships are poorly known. A phylogenetic analysis supports an assignment of Hlavinichthys jacksoni gen. et sp. nov. among the aspinothoracid arthrodires. This work has drawn attention to the continued need for descriptive and phylogenetic analyses of this unique fauna. Decades old species descriptions need revision along with preparation and description of new taxa. The work on Hlavinichthys jacksoni gen. et sp. nov. here is one step in that process.
Six enigmatic fossils from the Famennian (Devonian) Cleveland Shale in Ohio, U.S.A., are interpreted here as arthrodiran (Placodermi) egg cases. Recognition as egg cases is confirmed based on the observation of layered collagen fibers. The presence of a tuberculated bone fragment preserved within one case confirms a vertebrate source. The nature of the tubercles and the unique morphology of the egg cases supports the interpretation of an arthrodiran source. Reports of Devonian egg cases are limited to either assumed chondrichthyan producers or a putative ‘egg sac’ with a morphology atypical for any vertebrate. The Cleveland Shale egg cases thus represent the first record for a non-chondrichthyan producer. Among placoderms, behaviors of a pelagic life style with obligate nesting sites, reef fishes with live birth, and estuarine and fluvial nurseries, along with eggcase oviparity testifies to the diversity of reproductive strategies. As with modern fishes these strategies may be ecologically driven and the derived and variable reproductive biology of extant chondrichthyans is actually a primitive condition among gnathostomes. One consequence of the diversity of reproductive strategies (dependent on the topology of relationships) is the independent origin of internal fertilization within placoderms, possibly suggesting external fertilization as the primitive gnathostome reproductive mode.