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 (http://lb.vg/dO06Q) 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.
    
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Information from: The Florida Times-Union, http://www.jacksonville.com

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