The abundance and composition of zooplankton down to 3000 m depth was studied in the subtropical and tropical latitudes across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans (35 °N-40 °S). Samples were collected from December 2010 to June 2011 during the Malaspina Circumnavigation Expedition. Usually, low abundances were observed with the highest values found in the North Pacific Ocean, Benguela, and off Mauritania, and the lowest in the South Pacific Ocean. No significant differences in abundance and zooplankton composition were found among oceans, with depth being consistently the most important factor affecting their distribution. Each depth strata were inhabited by distinct copepod assemblages, which significantly differed among the strata. The contribution of copepods to the zooplankton community increased with the depth although, as expected, their abundance strongly decreased. Among the copepods, 265 species were identified but 85% were rare and contributed less than 1% in abundance. Clausocalanus furcatus and Nannocalanus minor dominated the epipelagic strata. Pleuromamma abdominalis and Lucicutia clausi were of importance in the mesopelagic layer, and Pareucalanus, Triconia, Conaea and Metridia brevicauda in the bathypelagic layer. Our results provide a global-scale assessment of copepod biodiversity and distribution, providing a contemporary benchmark to follow future ocean changes at low latitudes.