The vast majority of extant vertebrate diversity lies within the bony and cartilaginous fish lineages of jawed vertebrates. There is a long history of elegant experimental investigation of development in bony vertebrate model systems (e.g., mouse, chick, frog and zebrafish). However, studies on the development of cartilaginous fishes (sharks, skates and rays) have, until recently, been largely descriptive, owing to the challenges of embryonic manipulation and culture in this group. This, in turn, has hindered understanding of the evolution of developmental mechanisms within cartilaginous fishes and, more broadly, within jawed vertebrates. The little skate (Leucoraja erinacea) is an oviparous cartilaginous fish and has emerged as a powerful and experimentally tractable developmental model system. Here, we discuss the collection, husbandry and management of little skate brood stock and eggs, and we present an overview of key stages of skate embryonic development. We also discuss methods for the manipulation and culture of skate embryos and illustrate the range of tools and approaches available for studying this system. Finally, we summarize a selection of recent studies on skate development that highlight the utility of this system for inferring ancestral anatomical and developmental conditions for jawed vertebrates, as well as unique aspects of cartilaginous fish biology.