Seven endemic species of skates (Chondrichthyes: Rajidae) represent the only family of elasmobranchs currently known to live in Antarctic continental waters. Many previous authors believed skates colonized Antarctic waters from Patagonia during interglacial periods in the Quaternary. However, recent fossil material collected from the middle Eocene La Meseta Formation of Seymour Island, Antarctic Peninsula, indicates that they may have persisted in Antarctic waters since the Paleogene. Additionally, oceanographic barriers present in the Neogene and Quaternary would have prevented dispersal from southern continents to Antarctica. A revised dispersal scenario, based on skate fossils, biology, paleogeography, and present centers of skate diversity, suggests that skates evolved in the western Tethys and North Boreal seas of western Europe in the Late Cretaceous and early Paleogene and emigrated into Antarctica during the early to middle Eocene via a dispersal corridor along the continental margins of the western Atlantic Ocean. Skates probably populated the Pacific Basin by passing from this dispersal corridor through the Arctic Ocean. Vicariant events, such as opening of the Drake Passage, the development of the Circum-Antarctic Current, and formation of deep and wide basins around Antarctica in the late Paleogene, created barriers that isolated some species of skates in Antarctica and prevented movement of other species of skates into Antarctica from northern areas. Skates are the only group of fishes known to have survived the Oligocene cooling of Antarctica that killed or extirpated the Paleogene ichthyofauna; they persisted by a combination of cold-tolerance, generalized diet, and unspecialized bathymetric and habitat preferences.