The mesozooplankton community, with special emphasis on calanoid copepods, was studied with respect to its species composition, abundance, vertical distribution and developmental structure during the ISPOL expedition to the ice covered western Weddell Sea. Stratified zooplankton tows were carried out nine times between December 1, 2004 and January 2, 2005 with a multiple opening-closing net between 0 and 1000 m depth. Copepods were by far the most abundant taxon contributing more than 94% of the total mesozooplankton. Numerical dominants were cyclopoid copepods, mostly Oncaea spp. A total of 66 calanoid copepod species were identified, but the calanoid copepod community was characterised by the dominance of only a few species. The most numerous species was Microcalanus pygmaeus, which comprised on average 70% of all calanoids. Calanoides acutus and Metridia gerlachei represented other abundant calanoid species contributing an average of 8 and 7%, respectively. All other species comprised less than 3%. The temporal changes in the abundance and population structure of M. pygmaeus and M. gerlachei were small while a shift in the stage frequency distribution of C. acutus was observed during the study: CIV dominated the C. acutus population with 48 to 50% during the first week of December, while CV comprised 48% in late December. CI and CII of C. acutus were absent in the samples and males occurred only in very low numbers in greater depths. In M. gerlachei, CI was not found, whereas all developmental stages of M. pygmaeus occurred throughout the study. All three species showed migratory behaviour, and they occurred in upper water layers towards the end of the investigation. This vertical ascent was most pronounced in C. acutus and relatively weak in the other two species. In M. pygmaeus and M. gerlachei, copepodite stages were responsible for the upward migration in late December, while the vertical distribution of adults did not change. In C. acutus all abundant developmental stages (CIV, CV and females) ascended to upper water layers. Almost exclusively (93%) medium- and semi-ripe females of C. acutus and M. gerlachei were found, and only 3 - 4% of the ovaries were ripe. The absence of CI and the low number of ripe females indicate that the main reproductive period had not started in C. acutus and M. gerlachei until the end of our study in early January. In contrast, the high portion of CI and CII of M. pygmaeus suggests that reproduction of this species had started in October-November and hence, before the onset of the phytoplankton bloom in the water. The community structure did not differ between stations with one exception on December 26, when the station was strongly influenced by the continental shelf.