Abstract Investigations of metabolic rate, enzyme activity and chemical composition were undertaken on two abundant deep-sea pelagic worms: Nectonemertes mirabilis (Nemertea; Hoplonemertinea) and Poeobius meseres (Annelida; Polychaeta). Six other species of worms ( Pelagonemertes brinkmanni (Nemertea) and the following polychaetes: Pelagobia species A, Tomopteris nisseni, Tomopteris pacifica, Tomopteris species A, and Traviopsis lobifera) were captured in smaller numbers and used for comparison in the physiological and biochemical measurements. Polychaete worms had the highest oxygen consumption rates and, along with N. mirabilis, displayed significant size effects on metabolic rate. Poeobius meseres had the lowest rates of oxygen consumption and displayed no significant relationship of oxygen consumption rate to wet weight. No significant effect of size on the activities of citrate synthase, lactate dehydrogenase or pyruvate kinase was observed in P. meseres or N. mirabilis. Lipid content was higher than protein content for all the worms in this study. Carbohydrate was of little significance in these worms and was usually <0.01% of the total weight. Citrate synthase activities of pelagic worms showed excellent correlation with metabolic rates. It appears that polychaete worms as a group have higher metabolic rates than bathypelagic shrimps, copepods and fishes, and may be the animals with the highest metabolic rates in the bathypelagic regions of the world's oceans.