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Species invasions provide numerous unplanned and frequently, but imperfectly, replicated
experiments that can be used to better understand the natural world. Classic studies
by Darwin, Grinnell, Elton and others on these species-invasion experiments provided
invaluable insights for ecology and evolutionary biology. Recent studies of invasions
have resulted in additional insights, six of which we discuss here; these insights
highlight the utility of using exotic species as 'model organisms'. We also discuss
a nascent hypothesis that might provide a more general, predictive understanding of
invasions and community assembly. Finally, we emphasize how the study of invasions
can help to inform our understanding of applied problems, such as extinction, ecosystem
function and the response of species to climate change.