Since the advent of the plate tectonic theory, attempts to reconstruct past configurations of our planet have traditionally followed the doctrine that the Earth’s surface is made of rigid plates. An Euler pole and rotation describe movement of such plates. However the presence of mountain belts illustrates that continental lithosphere behaves in a ductile manner. Deformation of intervening regions is required when data such as variable shortening estimates or differing palaeomagnetic rotations are taken into account by considering motion relative to an adjacent stable region such as a cratonic zone. This deformation may have taken place in any number of ways, for example as the result of relatively uniform horizontal shortening or extension, differential motion as required by thrust imbrication, or even movement along tears or faults in wrench fault zones.

These principles led to the creation of the mesh-based Pplates software (Smith et al. 2007). In this paper we utilise the deformable mesh capabilities of Pplates in reconstructing the Cretaceous to present evolution of the Andean Margin of South America. We have analysed various data and interpretations to compile a meshed, deforming model of the entire Andean margin, encompassing the terrane accretion in the Northern Andes, the evolution of the Bolivian Orocline in the Central Andes, and the formation of the Patagonian Orocline in the Southern Andes. Our model highlights the dynamic history of the region, illustrating compressive and extensional tectonic processes, in addition to the bending of an initially straight orogen.