Regeneration responses in animals are widespread across phyla. To identify molecular players that confer regenerative capacities to non-regenerative species is of key relevance for basic research and translational approaches. Here, we report a differential response in retinal regeneration between medaka (Oryzias latipes) and zebrafish (Danio rerio). In contrast to zebrafish, medaka Müller glia (olMG) cells behave like progenitors and exhibit a restricted capacity to regenerate the retina. After injury, olMG cells proliferate but fail to self-renew and ultimately only restore photoreceptors. In our injury paradigm, we observed that in contrast to zebrafish, proliferating olMG cells do not maintain sox2 expression. Sustained sox2 expression in olMG cells confers regenerative responses similar to those of zebrafish MG (drMG) cells. We show that a single, cell-autonomous factor reprograms olMG cells and establishes a regeneration-like mode. Our results position medaka as an attractive model to delineate key regeneration factors with translational potential.