The anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) with sulfate controls the emission of the greenhouse gas methane from the ocean floor. In marine sediments, AOM is performed by dual-species consortia of anaerobic methanotrophic archaea (ANME) and sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) inhabiting the methane-sulfate transition zone. The biochemical pathways and biological adaptations enabling this globally relevant process are not fully understood. Here we study the syntrophic interaction in thermophilic AOM (TAOM) between ANME-1 archaea and their consortium partner SRB HotSeep-1 (ref. 6) at 60 °C to test the hypothesis of a direct interspecies exchange of electrons. The activity of TAOM consortia was compared to the first ANME-free culture of an AOM partner bacterium that grows using hydrogen as the sole electron donor. The thermophilic ANME-1 do not produce sufficient hydrogen to sustain the observed growth of the HotSeep-1 partner. Enhancing the growth of the HotSeep-1 partner by hydrogen addition represses methane oxidation and the metabolic activity of ANME-1. Further supporting the hypothesis of direct electron transfer between the partners, we observe that under TAOM conditions, both ANME and the HotSeep-1 bacteria overexpress genes for extracellular cytochrome production and form cell-to-cell connections that resemble the nanowire structures responsible for interspecies electron transfer between syntrophic consortia of Geobacter. HotSeep-1 highly expresses genes for pili production only during consortial growth using methane, and the nanowire-like structures are absent in HotSeep-1 cells isolated with hydrogen. These observations suggest that direct electron transfer is a principal mechanism in TAOM, which may also explain the enigmatic functioning and specificity of other methanotrophic ANME-SRB consortia.