Brown algae are multicellular photosynthetic stramenopiles that colonize marine rocky shores worldwide. Ectocarpus sp. Ec32 has been established as a genomic model for brown algae. Here we present the genome and metabolic network of the closely related species, Ectocarpus subulatus Kützing, which is characterized by high abiotic stress tolerance. Since their separation, both strains show new traces of viral sequences and the activity of large retrotransposons, which may also be related to the expansion of a family of chlorophyll-binding proteins. Further features suspected to contribute to stress tolerance include an expanded family of heat shock proteins, the reduction of genes involved in the production of halogenated defence compounds, and the presence of fewer cell wall polysaccharide-modifying enzymes. Overall, E. subulatus has mainly lost members of gene families down-regulated in low salinities, and conserved those that were up-regulated in the same condition. However, 96% of genes that differed between the two examined Ectocarpus species, as well as all genes under positive selection, were found to encode proteins of unknown function. This underlines the uniqueness of brown algal stress tolerance mechanisms as well as the significance of establishing E. subulatus as a comparative model for future functional studies.