New data on the earliest ontogeny of Mid-Ordovician Baltoscandian clitambonitoid (Apomatella, Neumania and Oslogonites) and polytoechioid (Antigonambonites and Raunites) brachiopods reveal significant differences in the life history of the taxa belonging to these two superfamilies. The Polytoechioidea and probably other members of the Billingsellida had planktotrophic larvae, in which the dorsal and ventral mantle lobes formed separately and without reversion. The ‘pedicle sheath’ in Antigonambonites is secreted by a section of modified ventral mantle and thus this ‘pedicle’ is not homologous within the pedicle of rhynchonellate brachiopods. It is likely that polytoechioids and other members of the strophomenate clade had the same type of ontogeny and mode of attachment. In contrast, the ontogeny and mode of attachment of clitambonitoids are similar to that of recent rhynchonellates: their mantle lobes and both valves formed simultaneously, and the pedicle most likely formed from the larval pedicle lobe. Evidence for the lecithotrophic nature of clitambonitoid larva is discussed. This confirms that the Clitambonitoidea, unlike the Polytoechioidea, represents an ingroup within the Rhynchonellata.