New opportunities to understand marine speciation and evolution of local adaptation come with genomic approaches and with the development of comprehensive model systems. The marine snail Littorina saxatilis is one example of a developing marine model for investigating genetic mechanisms of rapid divergence and evolution in natural systems. This species is strongly polymorphic and shows formation of local ecotypes throughout its distribution. Support is strong for primary (in situ) and parallel formation of reproductively semi-isolated ecotypes with contact zones between heterogeneous intertidal microhabitats. This makes this species an ideal organism for gaining new insights into the interplay of divergent selection, gene flow and genetic drift during local adaptation and speciation. A relatively well-resolved draft genome and a genetic map describing 17 linkage groups (“chromosomes”) are key tools for investigating the role of structural genomic variation, such as inversions, gene duplications and translocations. Whole genome re-sequencing of pools of individuals and the first comprehensive study of a contact zone contribute direct information on selection and barriers to gene flow present in specific regions of the genome. Linking selection at the phenotypic level to patterns obser ved in the genome is under way by quantitative trait loci mapping and annotation of candidate genes, while the role of single mutations on individual fitness will have to await development of gene manipulation tools. The features of the snail system facilitate the study of local adaptation and speciation and its genomic basis, but the underlying evolutionary processes are expected to be similar in other organisms, and hence this species is a useful model.