One of the smallest arthropods recently discovered in the Early Cambrian Maotianshan Shale Lagerstätte is described. Ercaia gen. nov. has an untagmatized trunk bearing serially repeated biramous appendages (long and segmented endopods and flap–like exopods), a head with an acron bearing stalked lateral eyes and a sclerite and two pairs of antennae. The position of this 520 million–year–old tiny arthropod within the Crustacea is supported by several anatomical features: (i) a head with five pairs of appendages including two pairs of antennae, (ii) highly specialized antennae (large setose fans with a possible function in feeding), and (iii) specialized last trunk appendages (segmented pediform structures fringed with setae). The segmentation pattern of Ercaia (5 head and 13 trunk) is close to that of Maxillopoda but lacks the trunk tagmosis of modern representatives of the group. Ercaia is interpreted as a possible derivative of the stem group Crustacea. Ercaia is likely to have occupied an ecological niche similar to those of some Recent meiobenthic organisms (e.g. copepods living in association with sediment). This new fossil evidence supports the remote ancestry of crustaceans well before the Late Cambrian and shows, along with other fossil data (mainly Early Cambrian in China), that a variety of body plans already coexisted among the primitive crustacean stock.