Chamaepinnularia thermophila is a small and poorly known diatom species. After the first description from a hot spring in Guadalupe in 1952, its presence appeared to be limited to a few other springs of the French Antilles. The objective of this study is to report new information on aspects of taxonomy, distribution and ecology of this species. Accurate analysis under light and scanning electron microscope of the material collected on different substrates (cobbles, macrophytes and fine sediments) from a thermo-mineral spring of Sardinia (Italy) allowed us to document the first record of the species in the Mediterranean area. Furthermore, the comparison with Navicula tongatensis from Hustedt's original material, carried out because of their similarity, revealed identical morphological characteristics suggesting their consequent synonymy. Based on the information available in the literature and our data, C. thermophila is a rare species present mainly in tropical areas, in thermal springs with alkaline pH, medium to high conductivity and low to moderate nutrient content. The occurrence of the species at sites with very different environmental characteristics seems unusual, but it could indicate a broader ecological range. This study contributes to the standardization of the nomenclature used for this species so far and provides the first framework on its global geographic distribution and ecology.