This study describes the spatio-temporal distribution, population biology, and diet of the puffer fish Lagocephalus laevigatus in Caraguatatuba Bay, south-eastern Brazil. Monthly samples were taken between August 2003 and October 2004 by trawls in two areas, south and north, at depths of 1 to 4 m. The fish were measured and their sex and reproductive stage determined. The abundance of this species was compared between areas and among months, and the items in the diet were identified and quantified. Lagocephalus laevigatus was rare in Caraguatatuba Bay, where only 199 small individuals (4.8 to 15.4 cm) were obtained in the entire study period, suggesting that this species uses the estuary as a nursery. None of the specimens of L. laevigatus captured in Caraguatatuba Bay were sexually mature. Higher densities of L. laevigatus in the bay were recorded in the south area and between October and December 2003, i.e. in the spring, suggesting that spawning may occur from late winter to spring (August through to November). The diet items consumed by L. laevigatus in Caraguatatuba Bay were, as expected from the current literature, crustaceans, mainly amphipods, and fish. However, the most-consumed item was the sea whip Leptogorgia setacea (Cnidaria). This feeding habit may be related to the presence of toxins (tetrodotoxin and saxitoxin) that are frequently found in the skin and viscera of L. laevigatus, which may be sequestered from the sea whip, which possibility still needs to be specifically evaluated.