Temperatures around hydrothermal vents are highly variable, ranging from near freezing up to 300 degrees C. Nevertheless, animals thrive around vents, some of which live near the known limits of animal thermotolerance. Paralvinella sulfincola, an extremely thermotolerant vent polychaete, and Paralvinella palmiformis, a cooler-adapted congener, are found along the Juan de Fuca Ridge in the northwestern Pacific. We conducted shipboard high-pressure thermotolerance experiments on both species to characterize the physiological adaptations underlying P. sulfincola’s pronounced thermotolerance. Quantitative proteomics, expressed sequence tag (EST) libraries and glutathione assays revealed that P. sulfincola (i) exhibited an upregulation in the synthesis and recycling of glutathione with increasing temperature, (ii) downregulated nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) and succinate dehydrogenases (key enzymes in oxidative phosphorylation) with increasing temperature, and (iii) maintained elevated levels of heat shock proteins (HSPs) across all treatments. In contrast, P. palmiformis exhibited more typical responses to increasing temperatures (e.g. increasing HSPs at higher temperatures). These data reveal differences in how a mesotolerant and extremely thermotolerant eukaryote respond to thermal stress, and suggest that P. sulfincola’s capacity to mitigate oxidative stress via increased synthesis of antioxidants and decreased flux through the mitochondrial electron transport chain enable pronounced thermotolerance. Ultimately, oxidative stress may be the key factor in limiting all metazoan thermotolerance.