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The sculpture of scales and plates of articulated anaspids from the order Birkeniida is described and used to clarify the position of scale taxa previously left in open nomenclature. The dermal skeleton of a well-preserved squamation of Birkenia elegans Traquair, 1898 from the Silurian of Scotland shows a characteristic finely tuberculated sculpture over the whole body. Rhyncholepis parvula Kiær, 1911, Pterygolepis nitida (Kiær, 1911) and Pharyngolepis oblonga Kiær, 1911, from the Silurian of Norway show three other sculpture types. Northern Hemisphere disarticulated scales and plates are described here, supporting a new anaspid taxonomy that includes both articulated and disarticulated material. The diversity, distribution, evolutionary trends and biostratigraphy of anaspids are described in the context of this new taxonomy, which includes six families (two are new) subdivided into 16 genera (10 are new) and 22 species (15 are new).
New taxa among Birkeniidae Traquair, 1898 are Birkenia robusta sp. nov. and Hoburgilepis papillata gen. et sp. nov.. Rhyncholepididae Kiær, 1924 includes Rhyncholepis butriangula sp. nov., Silmalepis erinacea gen. et sp. nov., Vesikulepis funiforma gen. et sp. nov., Maurylepis lacrimans gen. et sp. nov., and the previously described Schidiosteus mustelensis Pander, 1856 and Rytidolepis quenstedtii Pander, 1856. Tahulalepididae fam. nov. is represented by Tahulalepis elongituberculata gen. et sp. nov. and the revised T. kingi (Woodward, 1947). Septentrioniidae fam. nov. contains Septentrionia lancifera gen. et sp. nov., S. mucronata gen. et sp. nov., S. dissimilis gen. et sp. nov., S. seducta gen. et sp. nov., Liivilepis curvata gen. et sp. nov., Spokoinolepis alternans gen. et sp. nov. and Manbrookia asperella gen. et sp. nov. The family level position of Ruhnulepis longicostata gen. et sp. nov. is uncertain. Pterygolepididae Obruchev, 1964 and Pharyngolepididae Kiær, 1924 remain monogeneric.