Concepts of the family Hyolithidae Nicholson fide Fisher and the genera Hyolithes Eichwald and Orthotheca Novak have been expanded through time to encompass a variety of morphologically dissimilar shells. The Hyolithidae is here considered to include only those hyolithid species which have a rounded (convex) dorsum; slopes on the dorsum are inflated, and the venter may be flat or slightly inflated. Hyolithes encompasses species which possess a low dorsum and a prominent longitudinal sulcus along each edge of the dorsum; the ligula is short and the apertural rim is flared. The emended concept of Orthotheca includes only those species of orthothecid hyoliths which have a subtriangular transverse outline and longitudinal lirae covering the shell on both dorsum and venter.
Eighteen species of Hyolithes and one species of Orthotheca from the Appalachian region and Western Interior were reexamined in light of more modern taxonomic concepts and standards of quality for type material. Reexamination of type specimens of H. similis Walcott from the Lower Cambrian of Newfoundland, H. whitei Resser from the Lower Cambrian of Nevada, H. billingsi Walcott from the Lower Cambrian of Nevada, H. gallatinensis Resser from the Upper Cambrian of Wyoming, and H. partitus Resser from the Middle Cambrian of Alabama indicates that none of these species represents Hyolithes. Hyolithes similis is here included under the new genus Similotheca, in the new family Similothecidae. Hyolithes whitei is designated as the type species of the new genus Nevadotheca, to which H. billingsi may also belong. Hyolithes gallatinensis is referred to Burithes Missarzhevsky with question, and H. partitus may represent Joachimilites Marek. The type or types of H. attenuatus Walcott, H. cecrops Walcott, H. comptus Howell, H. cowanensis Resser, H. curticei Resser, H. idahoensis Resser, H. prolixus Resser, H. resseri Howell, H. shaleri Walcott, H. terranovicus Walcott, and H. wanneri Resser and Howell lack shells and/or other taxonomically important features such as a complete aperture, rendering the diagnoses of these species incomplete. Their names should only be used for the type specimens until better preserved topotypes become available for study. Morphology of the types of H.? corrugatus Walcott and “Orthotheca” sola Resser does not support placement in the Hyolitha; the affinities of these species are uncertain.