Some of the most unique and compelling survival strategies in the natural world are fixed in isolated species1. To date, molecular insight into these ancient adaptations has been limited, as classic experimental genetics has focused on interfertile individuals in populations2. Here we use a new mapping approach, which screens mutants in a sterile interspecific hybrid, to identify eight housekeeping genes that underlie the growth advantage of Saccharomyces cerevisiae over its distant relative Saccharomyces paradoxus at high temperature. Pro-thermotolerance alleles at these mapped loci were required for the adaptive trait in S. cerevisiae and sufficient for its partial reconstruction in S. paradoxus. The emerging picture is one in which S. cerevisiae improved the heat resistance of multiple components of the fundamental growth machinery in response to selective pressure. Our study lays the groundwork for the mapping of genotype to phenotype in clades of sister species across Eukarya.