Population genetic structure of the thorny skate (Amblyraja radiata) was surveyed in > 300 individuals sampled from Newfoundland, Iceland, Norway, the Kattegat and the central North Sea. A 290-bp fragment of the mt cytochrome-b gene was first screened by SSCP. Sequences of SSCP haplotypes revealed 34 haplotypes, 14 of which were unique to Iceland, 3 to Newfoundland, 1 to Norway and 3 to the Kattegat. The global F-ST was weak but significant. Removal of the two Kattegat locations, which were the most differentiated, resulted in no significant genetic differentiation. Haplotype diversity was high and evenly distributed across the entire Atlantic (h = 0.8) with the exception of the North Sea (h = 0.48). Statistical parsimony revealed a star-like genealogy with a central widespread haplotype. A subsequent nested clade analysis led to the inference of contiguous expansion with evidence for long distance dispersal between Newfoundland and Iceland. Historical demographic analysis showed that thorny skates have undergone exponential population expansion that started between 1.1 million and 690,000 years ago; and that the Last Glacial Maximum apparently had little effect. These results strongly differ from those of a parallel study of the thornback ray (Raja clavata) in which clear structure and former refugial areas could be identified. Although both species have similar life history traits and overlapping ranges, the continental shelf edge apparently does not present a barrier to migration in A. radiata, as it does for R. clavata.