Rates of respiration and ammonia excretion of Euphausia hanseni and Nematoscelis megalops were determined experimentally at four temperatures representative of conditions encountered by these euphausiid species in the northern Benguela upwelling environment. The respiration rate increased from 7.7 μmol O2 h–1 gww–1 at 5 °C to 18.1 μmol O2 h–1 gww –1 at 20 °C in E. hanseni and from 7.0 μmol O2 h–1 gww–1 (5 °C) to 23.4 μmol O2 h–1 gww –1 (20 °C) in N. megalops. The impact of temperature on oxygen uptake of the two species differed significantly. Nematoscelis megalops showed thermal adaptations to temperatures between 5 °C and 10 °C (Q10 = 1.9) and metabolic constraint was evident at higher temperatures (Q10 = 2.6). In contrast, E. hanseni showed adaptations to temperatures of 10–20 °C (Q10 = 1.5) and experienced metabolic depression below 10 °C (Q10 = 2.6). Proteins were predominantly metabolised by E. hanseni in contrast to lipids by N. megalops. Carbon demand of N. megalops between 5 and 15 °C was lower than in E. hanseni versus equal food requirements at 20 °C. It is concluded that the two species display different physiological adaptations, based on their respective temperature adaptations, which are mirrored in their differential vertical positioning in the water column.