Published: Dec 05, 2011 4:43 PM EST

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Some University of North Florida students are using a remote-controlled robot to aid in their research of gopher tortoises.
Gopher tortoises are among the few species that dig burrows.
The Florida Times-Union ( reports two students and their professors invented a subterranean robot camera mounted on miniature caterpillar tracks which offers researchers a real-time view of the burrow's occupants.
The robot travels  deep into the winding burrows so researchers can count how many tortoises are living on a tract of land, and determine what other species might be present. Previous methods have sometimes led to inaccurate overestimates of the population.
Gopher tortoises are protected under law as a "threatened species" in Florida and Georgia.
Experts say the animal's available habitat has decreased at least 80 percent over the past century.
Information from: The Florida Times-Union,

(Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)